11 Unbelievable Advances in Gaming Technology

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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.

Fish Tube: How the 'Salmon Cannon' Works and Why It's Important

PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images
PerfectStills/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the past week, you’ve certainly come across footage of wildlife conservationists stuffing salmon into a giant plastic tube and shuttling them over obstacles. It’s so bizarre—even by the already loose standards of the web—that it briefly ignited discussions over fish welfare, its purpose, and the seeming desire of people to be similarly transported through a pneumatic tunnel into a new life.

Naturally, the “salmon cannon” has a mission beyond amusing the internet. The system was created by Whooshh Innovations, a company that essentially adopted the same kind of transportation system featuring pressurized tubing that's used in banking. Initially, the system was intended to transport fruit over long distances without bruising. At some point, engineers figured they could do the same for fish.

The fish payload is secured at the entrance of the tube—acceptable species can weigh up to 34 pounds—and moves through a smooth, soft plastic tube that conforms to their body shape. Air pressure behind them keeps them moving. The fish are jettisoned between 16 and 26 feet per second to a new location, where they emerge relatively unscathed. Because there’s no need for a water column, the tubing can cover most terrain at virtually any height.

The tubing solution is a human answer to a human problem: dams. With fish largely confined to still bodies of water thanks to dams and facing obstacles swimming upstream to migrate and spawn, fish need some kind of assistance. In the past, “fish ladders” have helped fish move upstream by providing ascending steps they can flop on, but not all fish can navigate such terrain. Another system, trapping and hauling fish like cargo, results in disoriented fish who can even forget how to swim. The Whooshh system, which has been in used in Washington state for at least five years, allows for expedient fish export with an injury rate as little as 3 percent, although study results have varied.

The video features manual insertion of the fish. In the wild, Whooshh counts on fish making semi-voluntary entries into the tubing. Once they swim into an enclosure, they’re curious enough about the tube to go inside.

If all goes well, the system could help salmon be reintroduced to the Upper Columbia River in Washington, where the population has been depleted by dams. Testing of the device there is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

12 Facts About Netflix, Recommended For You

kasinv/iStock Editorial via Getty Images Plus
kasinv/iStock Editorial via Getty Images Plus

Netflix has become the world’s intravenous line for filmed entertainment. And like any media empire, it has a few stories of its own to tell. Take a look at some lesser-known, non-buffering facts about the streaming giant.

1. Early Netflix subscribers got a lot of Chinese pornography.

Addict man at computer laptop watching porn internet addiction concept
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In 1998, Netflix was still in the business of selling as well as renting DVDs. To try and offer consumers something new, co-founder Marc Randolph decided to offer footage of President Bill Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. But according to the book Netflixed, the duplicating house had a mix-up: out of the 1000 customers who ordered Clinton's interview, a few hundred received discs full of hardcore Chinese pornography.

2. Netflix was originally called Kibble.

Choosing a name for the company was a drawn-out process. Directpix.com, Replay.com, and other names were considered; so was Luna.com, which was the name of Randolph’s dog. When the company was being incorporated, he named it Kibble.com until they could decide on something permanent.

3. Netflix executives used to make house calls.

From the beginning, Netflix has been preoccupied with seeing how users interact with its software in order to select titles. In the late 1990s, subscribers near the company’s location in Los Gatos, California were reached via telephone and asked a series of questions. Then staffers would ask if they could stop by to watch them use the site. Surprisingly, most agreed. Netflix brought them coffee, a small investment for gaining valuable information about their usage.

4. Netflix got Dennis Quaid to sing.

For a 2006-2007 publicity tour, Netflix decided to screen films in thematically-correct locations: For example, Field of Dreams was shown in the “real” Iowa cornfield-slash-baseball diamond featured in the movie. But the company also wanted actors to make appearances. Their approach: offer to let those with bands perform for the crowds. Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Dennis Quaid, and Kevin Bacon all agreed to the barter deal. Quaid and his band, The Sharks, played in New Orleans before a screening of his film The Big Easy.

5. Netflix has made a science out of spoilers.

Because so much of Netflix’s high-profile content can be “binged” in a single weekend, the company commissioned cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken to examine how spoilers affect a person’s viewing habits. McCracken identified classifications of spoiler-prone people by whether they ruin a plot twist intentionally or hold it over others. (Some people are “Coded Spoilers,” too self-aware to let anything slip. These people are your friends.) His verdict? Some people enjoy the power they get from having knowledge of spoilers. But if a show is good enough, knowing about key scenes won't dissuade viewers from watching.

6. Netflix staffers think you decide on a movie in two minutes.

Apple iPad displaying Netflix app, Black with Reflection
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Netflix spends more than $150 million on improving their recommendation system every year, trying to arrange selections based on what they think you might like. That kind of personalized menu is necessary: The company estimates that users spend only two minutes browsing for a title before choosing one or opting for another diversion entirely.

7. Netflix staffers also think you might be kind of a liar. 

You can stop trying to impress Netflix with the streaming version of keeping Ulysses on your coffee table. In a 2013 WIRED interview, Carlos Gomez-Uribe—the company's vice president of product innovation from 2010 to 2016—noted that viewers often report viewing documentaries or esoteric foreign movies. “But in practice,” he said, “that doesn’t happen very much.”

8. the first "netflix original" was an abstract test footage short.

In order to test frame rates and how their streaming service handles different kinds of content, Netflix produced 11 minutes of test footage in 2011 that can be viewed by typing “example show” in their search engine. Cut together (as seen above), the shorts become a very strange, very abstract art film, with an unidentified man juggling and reciting Shakespeare. (But not, sadly, juggling while reciting Shakespeare.)

9. Netflix binge-watching might correlate with depression. 

A 2015 study by the University of Texas found that respondents who claimed to binge Netflix shows were more likely to suffer from depression, lack of self-control, or loneliness. The good news? The sample group was small—only 316 people—and the university’s definition of “binge-watching” was as low as two episodes. Amateurs. 

10. There’s a secret Netflix menu.

Netflix website showing on screen laptop with macbook pro at cafe
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No, not that kind of secret menu. Pressing Shift + Alt + a left mouse click brings up a troubleshooting menu that allows you to adjust the bit rate of a stream so it doesn’t buffer. (On a Mac, it's Shift + Option + click.) The picture quality won’t be as good, but it’s better than a pixelated Demogorgon.

11. There was once a glitch in the Netflix matrix. 

In 2014, Netflix’s content descriptions became odd amalgamations of two different titles to create one completely nonsensical listing. The summaries were quickly fixed, but not before someone took several screen shots of the mishaps.

12. You'll soon be able to stream Netflix in a Tesla.


Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

In July 2019, Tesla founder Elon Musk informed Tesla owners they would soon be able to stream both Netflix and YouTube in their cars, an attractive option for anyone looking to keep passengers occupied. But there's a catch: The services only work when the cars are parked. The feature will be available in newer-model cars at a date to be determined.

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