11 Unbelievable Advances in Gaming Technology

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istock

Video games have come a long way since they crossed into the mainstream in the 1980s, but some amazing advances in their tech have made the future of gaming even brighter. Here are a few examples.

1. FACIAL RECOGNITION

3D scanning and facial recognition technology allows systems to actually create your likeness in the gaming world (so you can create a custom avatar that looks just like you), or to inventively transfer your own expressions to other digital creations. On top of that, the Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera could allow developers to create games that adapt to the emotions of the gamer by scanning 78 different points on a person’s face. For example, a few grimaces at your game screen means the system would dial down the game’s difficulty instantly.

2. VOICE RECOGNITION

Too lazy to pick up that controller? No problem! Voice controlled gaming has been around for a while, but the potential of using the technology in gaming systems has finally caught up to reality—computers are now able to easily recognize voice commands from the user. Not only can you turn the console on and off using this tech, but you can also use voice commands to control gameplay, interact on social media, play selections from your media library, or search the web, all by simply talking to your gaming system.

3. GESTURE CONTROL

Or, get rid of your controller altogether! Intel RealSense technology allows you to play first person shooter games—or simply interact with your device—with just a few waves of your hand. Using a 3D camera that tracks 22 separate points in your hand, gesture control allows users to connect with their gaming experience by using the natural movements of your body. For example, the game Warrior Wave employs RealSense technology so you can use your hand (the outline of which shows up on the screen) to lead a group of Ancient Greek soldiers to safety.

4. AMAZING GRAPHICS

We’ve come a long way from the days of basic 8-bit graphics in gaming. Cutting edge advancements now allow gamers to experience games in fully rendered worlds with photo realistic textures. The ability to increase playability with higher image quality makes it seem like you’re right inside the game.

5. HIGH-DEF DISPLAYS

With gaming graphics this good, you need to have a bona fide way to show them off. Enter Ultra 4K gaming. Though televisions with 4K capabilities (meaning it must support at least 4,000 pixels) or 4K laptops (like the Intel-powered Lenovo Y50) started out at thousands of dollars, their price points have steadily declined, making this format the eventual standard in the way we watch the games we play. With unbeatable colors and crispness, there’s nothing else that can come close. And you thought 1080p looked good…

6. VIRTUAL REALITY

Though many virtual reality gaming consoles haven’t been commercially released as of yet, those developing VR headset displays are poised to grant gamers a fully immersive gaming experience the likes of which nobody has seen before. You’ll actually be able to lose yourself in the game before you come back to reality.

7. AUGMENTED REALITY

If the virtual world isn’t your thing, why not try out some games in ours? Not confined to a TV or computer monitor, AR games allow for a perspective unique to the gamer. They maneuver spaces within the real world and make the object of the game applicable to real-life situations. For example, play table hockey on your kitchen counter from any angle, or partake in some puzzles mapped out via obstacles in your backyard.

8. WEARABLE GAMING

Whether it’s smartwatches or glasses, wearable games make gaming portable without being too invasive. Companies that started by using wearable technology for fitness applications are now aiming to incorporate entertainment into the mix as well. Wearables aren’t only extensions of your body, but also extensions of the gaming consoles you know and love.

9. MOBILE GAMING

With the advent of smartphones, the gaming experience has been taken out of the arcade and the living room and put into the palm of your hand. As evidenced by the countless people on your morning train commute huddled over games on their devices, mobile technology has made the love of digital gaming spread beyond hardcore console-consumers and online gamers.

10. CLOUD GAMING

Instead of creating video game systems that require more powerful hardware, developers are looking to lighten the load with the cloud. Games no longer need be limited by the amount of memory that discs or consoles have to offer. Using the cloud opens games up to massive server-size limits where images are streamed to your screen through the Internet.

11. ON-DEMAND GAMING

Gamers can already watch and share live-streams of games, but what about playing them? Much like similar movie streaming services, the ability to stream video games is becoming more and more a reality, and it could lead game developers both big and small to compete for gaming glory.

Whether you’re using a 2 in 1 device to take your gaming from your couch to your commute or gesture control to play your games controller-free, innovations from Intel are making the future of gaming a reality. Learn more here.

25 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

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iStock.com/Orbon Alija

According to the EPA, Americans generate approximately 262 million tons of waste each year—and that amount keeps growing. In honor of Earth Day, which we'll celebrate on April 22, here are a few things you may have been throwing out that, with a little effort, you can actually recycle.

1. Dentures

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Grandpa's choppers may hold $25 worth of recyclable metals, including gold, silver, and palladium. The Japan Denture Recycling Association is known to collect false teeth, remove and recycle the metals, and discard the rest of the denture (which is illegal to reuse). The program has donated all of its earnings to UNICEF.

2. Holiday lights

Bundle of holiday string lights

Got burnt out holiday lights? The folks at HolidayLEDs.com will gladly take your old lights, shred them, and sort the remaining PVC, glass, and copper. Those raw materials are taken to another recycling center to be resurrected.

3. Sex toys

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The first step in recycling your toy is to send it to a specialty processing plant, where it's sterilized and sorted. There, all "mechanical devices" are salvaged, refurbished, and resold. Silicone and rubber toys, on the other hand, are "ground up, mixed with a binding agent, and remolded into new toys," according to the aptly titled website, Sex Toy Recycling. Metals, plastics, and other leftovers retire from the pleasure industry and are recycled into conventional products.

4. Hotel soap

Hotel bathroom counter with cups, shampoo, and soap

Not all hotels throw out that half-used soap you left in the shower: Some send it to Clean the World. There, soap is soaked in a sanitizing solution, treated to a steam bath, and then tested for infections. Once deemed safe, the soap is distributed to less fortunate people across the globe. So stop stealing soap from hotels—you may be stealing from charity.

5. Mattresses

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You don't need to dump your old box spring at the landfill. Because they're equipped with special saws, mattress recycling factories can separate the wood, metal, foam, and cloth. The metal springs are magnetically removed, the wood is chipped, and the cloth and foam are shredded and baled. In its future life, your saggy mattress could become a cute sundress or even wallpaper.

6. Cooking oil

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When you’re finished making French fries at home, it can be tempting to toss the spent frying oil down the drain. But you shouldn’t—nearly half of all sewer overflows are caused by fat and oil. There are a few curbside programs in the United States that accept used cooking oil, which may send the oil to a biodiesel plant that will transform it into fuel. To see if there’s a collection point near you, use this online tool.

7. Dirty diapers

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The average baby soils 6000 diapers before being potty trained—that's one ton of diapers rotting in a landfill per child. But not all poo-packages have to suffer this fate. The company Knowaste collects and recycles dirty diapers at hospitals, nursing facilities, and public restrooms. After sanitizing the diaper with a solution, they mechanically separate the "organic matter" from the diaper's plastic, which is compressed into pellets and recycled into roof shingles. Meanwhile, paper pulp in diapers grows up to become wallpaper and shoe soles.

8. CDs

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CDs are made of polycarbonate and won't decompose at a landfill. But if you send your discs to The CD Recycling Center, they'll shred them into a fine powder that will be later melted down into a plastic perfect for automotive and building materials—even pavement!

9. Shoes

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Send your beat-up sneaks to Nike Grind and you'll help build a running track. Nike's recycling facility rips apart worn shoes, separating the rubber, foam, and fabric. The rubber is melted down for running track surfaces, the foam is converted into tennis court cushioning, and the fabric is used to pad basketball court floorboards.

10. Animal poop

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Why turn animal poop into fertilizer, manure, or trash when you can make it into a greeting card? Or a bouquet of arficial flowers? The folks at Poopoo Paper do that, plus more—they can transform the poop of a wide variety of animals (cows, horses, elephants, and more) into cards, bookmarks, keychains, magnets, jewelry and more!

11. Trophies

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Is your room full of plastic bowling trophies from fifth grade? If the thrill of victory fades, you can recycle your old trophies at recycling centers like Lamb Awards. They'll break down your retired awards, melting them down or reusing them for new trophies.

12. Human fat (warning; illegal) 

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If it weren't for legal complications, America's obsession with cosmetic surgery could solve its energy problem. In 2008, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon lost his job when police caught him fueling his car with a biofuel created from his patients' liposuctioned fat. (Convicting him wasn't hard, since he advertised the substance online as "lipodiesel.") That's not the first time fat has powered transportation: In 2007, conservationist Peter Bethune used 2.5 gallons of human fat to fuel his eco-boat, Earthrace.

13. Aluminum foil

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Foil is probably one of the most thrown away recyclable materials out there. (Americans throw away about 1.5 million tons of aluminum products every year, according to the EPA.) But foil is 100 percent aluminum, and as long as you thoroughly clean it of any food waste, you technically should be able to recycle it with your aluminum cans (but first check with your local recycling plant to ensure they’re equipped to process it; some aren’t).

14. Crayons

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Don't toss those stubby Crayolas! Instead, mail them to the National Crayon Recycle Program, which takes unloved, broken crayons to a better place: They're melted in a vat of wax, remade, and resold. So far, the program has saved more than 120,000 pounds of crayons.

15. Dead pets

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When Fluffy bites the dust in Germany, you can memorialize your beloved pet by recycling her. In Germany, it's illegal to bury pets in public places. This leaves some pet owners in a bind when their furry friends die. A rendering plant near the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße accepts deceased pets; animal fat is recycled into glycerin, which is used in cosmetics such as lip balm.

16. Shingles

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The EPA estimates that 11 million tons of shingles are disposed each year [PDF]. Most of them are made out of asphalt, which is why more than two dozen states pulverize the old shingles and recycle them into pavement. For every ton of shingles recycled, we save one barrel of oil.

17. Prescription drugs

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You can—and should—properly dispose of expired prescription drugs. But what about unneeded pills that are still good? Some states let you donate unused drugs back to pharmacies. Some charities also accept leftover HIV medicine from Americans who have switched prescriptions, stopped medicating, or passed away. These drugs are shipped overseas and distributed to HIV victims around the world.

18. Fishing line

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Fishing line is made from monofilament, a non-biodegradable plastic that you can't put in your everyday recycling bin. At Berkley Fishing, old fishing line is mixed with other recyclables (like milk cartons and plastic bottles) and transformed into fish-friendly habitats. So far, Berkley has saved and recycled more than 9 million miles of fishing line.

19. Wine corks

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Your recycling center probably doesn't accept wine corks, but companies like Terracycle and Yemm & Hart will. They turn cork into flat sheets of tile, which you can use for flooring, walls, and veneer. Another company, ReCORK, has extended the life of over 4 million unloved corks by giving them to SOLE, a Canadian sandal maker.

20. Pantyhose

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Most pantyhose are made of nylon, a recyclable thermoplastic that takes more than 40 years to decompose. Companies like No Nonsense save your old stockings by grinding them down and transforming them into park benches, playground equipment, carpets, and even toys.

21. Toothbrushes

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If you buy a plastic toothbrush from Preserve (which makes its toothbrushes from old Stonyfield Farms yogurt cups and other everyday items), it will take back your used toothbrush and give it a new life—this time as a piece of plastic lumber!

22. Tennis balls

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The company reBounces doesn’t really recycle tennis balls, it resurrects them. If you’ve got at least 200 balls sitting around, the company will send you a prepaid shipping label to help get the box on the road and repressurize the balls.

23. Yoga mats

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Most yoga mats are made from PVC, the same material in plumbing pipes, heavy-duty tarps, and rain boots. While many local yoga studios will accept well-loved mats and find them a new home, the company Sanuk has an appropriately squishy vision for each mat’s future: It will transform your old yoga mat into flip flops.

24. Defunct currency

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All governments have a way of dealing with old, worn money. (In 2016, the Indian government shredded old bills and turned them into hardboard.) But what about currency that is no longer legal tender? It turns out you can donate your old French francs, Spanish pesetas, or Dutch guilders to Parkinsons UK, who will recycle the old coins and banknotes.

25. Pet fur

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All of the pet fur on your sweaters, your couches, and your carpet could help save the ocean from oil spills. Hair is excellent at sopping up oil from the environment (hairball booms were used to soak up oil from the 2010 BP Oil Spill), so non-profit organizations such as the San Francisco-based Matter of Trust will accept pet fur to make oil-absorbing mats of Fido's fuzz.

This piece was updated for 2019.

This E-Ink Android Tablet Feels Like Real Paper

Tablets are designed to make life more convenient: They let you take notes, play games, and surf the web from a device the size of a notebook. But even in the digital age, some people have trouble letting go of the old-school feeling of pen and paper. With E-PAD, a new e-ink Android tablet, you don't have to choose between one or the other.

The E-PAD e-ink tablet debuted on Kickstarter on March 26, and with a little over a week to go in its crowdfunding campaign, it's already raised over $340,000. The WiFi-connected and 4G-compatible gadget has the same features as a conventional tablet: You can use it to play music, read e-books, and send emails. But when you want to sketch or write something, E-PAD offers something most tablets can't.

Using your finger or the stylus, you can treat E-PAD like a real paper notebook. The glare-free surface of the screen mimics the texture of paper, giving you the same friction you'd get from scribbling something on a page. The display is sensitive enough to detect the pressure of your hand and adjust your pen strokes accordingly. Whether you're writing a to-do list, signing your name, or sketching a self-portrait, the device translates your unique style into a digital document.

Writing in an E-PAD also has some advantages over using a notebook. If you make a mistake you can undo it just like you would in a word processor—or redo it if you change your mind. You can also use the tablet to jot down notes directly onto digital texts, like e-books and legal documents. And if you prefer writing out notes by hand but can't decode your own handwriting, the E-PAD will convert your words to text.

The E-PAD is set to retail for $699, but it's currently available on Kickstarter for $449. You can pledge to the campaign now to receive it in August of this year.

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