Tattoo Technology

 

Getting a tattoo is usually a special event for a person, often commemorating something important, or a mile stone of sorts. From black and grey, to full on tattoos consisting of over 25 colours, like myself, a tattoo can come in all shapes and sizes.

But, what if I told you that you could use a tattoo to control your phone, or use that same phone to listen to a tattoo?

Well, good news, folks! You can do both!

In April of 2017, Nate Siggard created the first playable tattoo that you can listen to with the use of his now popular app, Skin Motion.  With this success he created a company with the same name and created the now popular Soundwave Tattoos. The idea is that you get the sound wave image of the sound that you want tattooed onto you by a specialist. With the help of the Skin Motion app, you can then play it back as many times as you want.

Another interesting, and slightly strange, new tech coming out in the tattoo world is Duo Skin. Created by MIT Media Lab and Microsoft, a custom, functional device attaches to a person’s skin and can interact with your technology. The way that it is made is the design is created in any design software, then sent out and printed with a film cutter. This is then traced on to tattoo paper and layered on with gold leaf (used as a conductive material), where the electronics are placed. Then you apply, or “install” this onto your skin.  Some of the designs can even have LED lights put into them to enhance the look of the tattoo. There are three different types of uses for this: input devise which act like a track pad or controller; output display which changes colour based on your temperature or emotion; or communication devices, which include NFC tags so you can read data with your skin.

There are many more advances coming out in the tattoo industry, including helping in the medicine field and longer lasting temporary tattoos, because commitment is hard.

Will you take any of these new advances into consideration when you plan your next tattoo?

For more information check out these links:

https://skinmotion.com/

http://duoskin.media.mit.edu/

Take a Step Into Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has started becoming more and more well-known in the gaming industry. It adds much more immersive and engaging qualities to a game, and now that it has been around for awhile, inventors are coming up with new ways it can be integrated into games.

The Japanese firm, known as Cerevo, has come out with Taclim. Taclim is a set of virtual reality shoes. As you have probably already guessed, the purpose behind this is to allow users to feel the virtual world through their feet. Each shoe has 3 sensors, two on the bottom of the shoe (one at the front and one at the rear), and the other is located a top of the foot. While wearing the shoes, a person can feel water splashing, a wooden floor creaking, snow crunching, and even soft sand beneath their feet.

Imagine fighting someone or something in a game and kicking them. With Taclim, you would easily be able to feel the difference between kicking your opponent, or kicking his/her shield. This is exactly what Cerevo is going for.

This newest addition to the virtual reality world is certainly a positive one. However, there are some downfalls. The lucky people who were able to try this out said it felt awkward, and the shoes were quite big and clunky. They felt uncomfortable doing a kicking motion, because the shoes felt like they were going to fall off. They also felt odd to walk in. They were instructed to stand in place and shuffle their feet in order to experience the different “textures”. While doing this not only did they feel awkward, but the shoes were heavy on their feet. Obviously, with every new invention, there will be positive and negative feedback.

Taclim is worth somewhere between $1000 – $1500, and will be available in late 2017. So far it is only compatible with Google VR, which explains why it’s so pricey. Hopefully it will become compatible with more than just Google, because otherwise it might not sell too well.

So the question is would you buy this? Or is this just another silly gimmick that the gaming industry has come up with. With the release date being sometime this year, we will have to patiently wait.

Innov8? More like do not resuscitate!

In our industry we are always using portable storage for large files, so which one should you buy? Introducing the Seagate Innov8 using Ignition Boost Technology, the Innov8 is the first 8TB USB-C-powered external desktop storage solution on the market. Just connect the device to your computer and you’re ready to go. The device is easy to move and can be placed exactly where you need it, and can handle up to 2 million songs, 4 million photos, and 800 HD movies. This device starts at $350 in stores and online. Even though the device sounds equip to do the job, is it? Speaking from experience hard drives are finicky and break. This is always heart breaking when they crash because it is months of work gone. I know many people in our class can relate to this because they have also suffered the same fate. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do when the hard drive crashes but to maybe cry and buy a new one. So what can we do to avoid this situation and not spend hundreds of dollars?

The first step is to backup your files on an extra hard drive or by using google drive, so when or if your hard drive crashes your work isn’t gone. It will also help to safely eject your drive from your device. Since hard drives are finicky sometimes it will not allow you to eject it. If the message comes across your screen I recommend restarting the computer then ejecting it after the computer has restarted. This has happened to me several times and so far has worked every time I have restarted it. Although these techniques and tips may help there is no guarantee that the hard drive will survive.

So in the end is it worth it to spend hundreds of dollars on this “awesome” technology? My conclusion is that it isn’t worth it. Being a student my world is revolved around money. I am not to pleased with having to purchase an expensive piece of technology several times because they crash. I’d rather spend my money on more important things that will not cause me pain. So overall this hard drive sounds fantastic and promises a lot of storage, but is the hard drive worth the risk?

The First VISOR?

For any of you who have a love of Star Trek, I’m assuming you’ve seen, or at least know of Star Trek: The Next Generation. One of the main characters is man named Geordie La Forge, a Starfleet engineer who was born blind. Now, this isn’t a problem as this takes place in the 2300’s and the technology is far superior to ours. Mr. La Forge (before getting ocular implants) wore what is called a VISOR (Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement) that allowed him to see by detecting electromagnetic signals across the EM spectrum (between 1 Hz and 100,000 THz) and used them to send signals to the brain through implants. This seems a little excessive, even for this day in age, but the technology isn’t far off.

Black eSight3

This is the eSight 3, A device that, although doesn’t “fix” blindness, allows people who are legally blind to see clearly. It works for about 4/5 people and works best for those who suffer from Macular Degeneration, but it works on a number of other conditions as well.

eSight CEO Dr. Brian Mech wanted to take advantage of the current improvements and successes of VR to help people. The eSight 3 uses high-speed, high-definition cameras to capture what the user is looking at, and displays it on 2 OLED screens in front of the user’s eyes. Using a remote that is connected to the headset, the user is able to zoom in or brighten/darken so that she is given the best sight possible. The headset can also take photos, capturing what the user is seeing. This not only gives people their sight back, but also gives them freedom. They can safely walk around in public without aid so that they don’t have to rely on a guide dog or white cane. It also helps them read so that they won’t need to use braille.

A couple of the drawbacks are that it isn’t waterproof, nor are users able to drive while wearing it, but the stages it’s at now are remarkable.

eSight 3

Sitting at $10,000 a piece, it is most definitely not the most affordable thing out there, but for many of the users, what the eSight 3 does for them is priceless.

We may not be at the point of curing blindness, but this step forward is truly incredible and who can even imagine where we will be in 10 years. And who knows? Maybe we will reaching VISOR technology sooner than 2300.

 

Antsy Lab – The Fidget Cube

Fidgeting is oftentimes seen as something bad. Something that you need to try not to do  in certain situations. But should it? Fidgeting is something natural that people do, and while it can perhaps be found annoying depending on what people do when they fidget, it can help those people focus, think, and help with anxiety. So, what if there was a good, ‘less distracting’ or ‘obnoxious’ way to fidget?

Well, it just so happens that Antsy Labs was able to get enough kickstarted backers to launch their project known as “The Fidget Cube”. What is the fidget cube? It’s fairly simple, nothing super high-tech. Just a regular six sided cube, but with some added features for your fidgeting needs. Each side has a different kind of interaction available. The cube’s different sides are: click, glide, flip, breathe, roll, and spin. The ‘click’ side features 5 buttons, three of which make a clicking noise when you press them, and two that you can press without making noise. ‘Glide’ has a small glider similar to a joystick on a gaming remote that you can move around, while ‘flip’ features a toggle switch and  ‘breathe’ has an indented impression for you to rub. ‘Roll’ features 3 little gears to spin, along with a ball for you to roll that also has a click feature. The last side also features another indented item to fiddle with.

As someone who can sometimes have a short attention span, trouble focusing, and can struggle with anxiety, I think that this is a pretty brilliant idea despite the simplicity of it. With each side containing something different, it provides multiple options so that you’re not limited to one option such as loudly clicking your pen, resulting in the annoyance of your neighbours, or twiddling your thumbs.

Aside from the interactive features, it also has options for a variety of colors so that you get a a fidget cube that not only helps you with your fidgeting, but is also visually appealing to you as well. The color schemes they provide on their site are: Dice (white with black), Graphite (a soft grey with black), Midnight (pure black), Aqua (white with light blue), Sunset (white with orange), Berry (white with kind of a magenta color), Fresh (white and a light green), and Retro (a mix of different grey-ish blue tones and black).

Pricing and colors can be found here: https://www.antsylabs.com/products/fidget-cube?variant=30253661068

The Art of Oxenfree

As a gamer, and designer, one of the things that catches my eye and draws my attention to a game is the style in which it is done. Now, just because a game has an appealing art style doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that matters. The story matters too! However, there are games in which the style of the rendering(s)/art helps portray the mood and feel of the game as you play. “Oxenfree”, a recently released single player supernatural adventure game developed by Night School Studio, is a great example of such instances.

Starting out as a simple, innocent trip to an island with friends, Alex (the main character) and her friends soon get more than what they bargained for. After tuning into a strange radio frequency inside a cave, everybody gets split up and things evolve from there. With strange occurrences such as on-screen glitch effects, to time loops, and weird visions, your stay on the island becomes less fun and more… foreboding. The style of the game (both artistically and musically) doesn’t give you much respite either. 

The art style is hard to describe, and it is quite pretty. But when looking at the in-game scenery, I can’t help but wonder what will go wrong. It’s an interesting mix of 3D rendered characters (stylized in a way that reminds me a little bit of Playdead’s “Inside”), and layered 2 dimensional art with unique textures to create depth and an uneasy sort of ambiance. When watching online play-throughs, or simply looking at the art itself, it’s easy for me to see that the developer knows exactly what they are doing. It’s not all nail biting and uneasiness though. There’s nice moments. Little snapshots where nothing is wrong and they are all having a good time, enjoying each-other’s company and not having a care in the world. These snapshots step away from the 3D render stylization, and into 2D territory in a way that perfectly fits with the rest of the game’s art style. Oxenfree is incredibly unique through and through, and has already inspired quite a bit of fan-made art for having released so recently. Personally I find such unique stylization in a video game today incredibly refreshing.

 

For more information, and a better insight into the game, you can follow this link: http://nightschoolstudio.com/oxenfree/

Or for a look at the music within “Oxenfree”, you can go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgjEymUAgaQ&list=PLzC-9vfwuEe7anLjq_NM2sjb1Gg_WVfo0

R.E : Biohazard – A Fresh Perspective

*Possible spoilers below!*

Capcom’s “Resident Evil : Biohazard” just dropped, and already it’s clear that it has not only gone back closer to it’s roots, but also does a much better job of building atmosphere, keeping people on edge and hyped up, as well as provides a fresh perspective in a variety of ways. We quite literally are provided with a new perspective in the franchise with the game utilizing a first person view, much like “Outlast”.

As I started following the story, it was quite apparent that Capcom is using this view to it’s full potential. They aren’t afraid to get up in your face (literally), showing off their extremely detailed renderings, and making you just a little uncomfortable with how close the tip of that knife appears to be in relation to your face. From small items and blurred view for when something is too close to your face, to characters and whole environments, realism is ever-present as a focus. Now, of course how good the game looks also depends on whatever system you are using and it’s capabilities, so that experience is of course going to differ based on that as well. But for the platforms that can handle it? It’s impeccable. If you look closely, you can see minor details such as the tiny hairs on the character’s hands and arms.

 

So, how did they accomplish this? Well, Capcom used a photogrammerty technique to tackle the development. If you are unclear about what photogrammerty is, it is essentially a facial capture technique. All 3D models, at least character wise as far as I have found, were built using the following process:

  • 3D-scan, processed with Agisoft Photoscan
  • Cleaned up, retopologized, and detailed in zBrush
  • Hair created with Ornatrix for 3DSMax
  • Rendered in Octane Render

In order to capture facial motions, they used a special headset to which allowed them to capture expressions without having to use markers. To see some more character models, or to see a demonstration of Photogrammerty, you can follow this link: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/6eXV0 .

With believable detail and depth, this new take on the series is an exciting story to follow as it ensures that you are not sitting comfortably for very long. Whether it’s a plethora of spiders jumping at you, a cockroach crawling over your hand, or a “Saw” like problem you need to solve to escape, Biohazard perfectly fits the horror genre.

NES games basically play themselves

Super Mario Bros for NES

Extreme code enthusiast, Tom Murphy, has developed an interesting and aesthetically pleasing software that plays NES games.

A Graduate of Carnegie Mellon University (School of Computer Science), has shown off a new piece of software he developed back in 2013 known as “Learnfun” and “Playfun”. The project has received little attention until it was further referred to in recent posts on Reddit(post 1785 by user “BulletAllergy”), and other similar sites.

Punch Out

To explain further, “Learnfun” and “Playfun” are AI (artificial intelligence) softwares that are capable of playing NES games via a computer emulator. The AI can understand the objective of the game and utilize controls it creates by itself to progress through, say, a level in Super Mario Brothers. The software at work can be viewed on youtube on Tom’s account known as “suckerpinch”. There are 3 episodes and no lack of analyzation for the viewers; despite Tom’s armada of ongoing projects. Regardless, some of the levels played in games like “Color A Dinosaur”, “Cliffhanger”, and more, are well played… For the most part. The software tends to either to beat the game in perfect rhythm, or completely crash and burn; giving us the fun and the funny in this development.

Cliffhanger

Tom’s research paper talks purely of the science behind the program, and the objective he wishes to achieve. The (FCEUX) emulator NES is developed through “a jillion lines of C++-ish code”. The paper holds every detail of the process, the mathematics, the science, the process, and so much more. Regardless, coding it to predict logical futures in game, having the machine understand what controls to use, the points, the objective, there are quite a lot of things to consider in the case. It’s quite a workload for poor Tom, but since this project has a solid goal and a nearby completion inbound, I have no trouble believing that this can become a stunningly cool visual marvel for the generations to see. I assume that other and more current game ports will be a ways away for us. I for one am seriously anticipating Tom’s work on Learnfun and Playfun softwares.

This neat little invention becomes even more pessimistic as the paper progresses and I continue to watch the demos. No amount of complex computer science can deter that I am a huge fan.