11 Unbelievable Advances in Gaming Technology

istock
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.

Ninja’s Hot & Cold Brewed System Is the Only Coffee Maker You’ll Ever Need

Amazon
Amazon

Update: The glass-carafe version of the Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System is currently on sale for $99 (a 50 percent discount) on Amazon and Walmart. That's the cheapest price we've ever seen, so grab it while you can. The thermal-carafe version is on sale on Amazon for $168, a 27 percent discount.

For people who just want a cup of joe to help them get out the door in the morning, the French presses, Chemexes, Aeropresses, Moka pots, and other specialized devices that coffee aficionados swear by probably seem more overwhelming than appealing. Ditto the fancy cappuccino machines at local cafes. That’s where Ninja’s new Hot & Cold Brewed System comes in: It was created to give coffee addicts a myriad of options with minimal fuss, not to mention minimal equipment. And it makes tea, too!

“Coffeehouses are known for having an endless selection, but current at-home brewers haven't given users the vast variety of choice we thought possible, and certainly not all in one product," Mark Rosenzweig, CEO of SharkNinja, said in a press release. "The Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System changes the category entirely. This innovative system is more than just a machine you use in the morning; it's your all-day brewing partner.”

The Hot & Cold Brewed System comes with two baskets: one for coffee and one for tea. It knows what you're making to make based on the basket you insert, and the available options for that basket will light up. The machine allows the user to make six different sizes of coffee or tea, from a single cup all the way up to a full 50-ounce (10-cup) carafe.

And of course, as the name suggests, the system can make both hot and iced beverages. For coffee, it has five brew options: classic, rich, over ice, cold brew, and specialty (a concentrated brew for milky drinks like cappuccinos). If you’re making tea, you can choose between hot and cold brews optimized for herbal, black, oolong, white, or green tea.

When you select an over ice or cold brew, the machine automatically doubles the strength of your beverage so it doesn't get overly diluted by the ice cubes in the carafe. Even better, the Ninja can make cold brew in just 10 to 15 minutes, whereas other systems and methods typically take hours. (Hot coffee is brewed at 205°F, while the cold brew is made at 101°F.) And the system has a hot and cold frother that folds into the side so you can make barista-level lattes, too.

These bells and whistles sound impressive on paper, but how do they perform in real life? Ninja sent me Hot & Cold Brewed System to test for myself.

Ease of Use

Though it might look like something developed by NASA, the Hot & Cold Brewed System is designed to easily work with the twist of a dial and the push of a button, and it delivers. From loading in the correct amount of grounds with the system’s “smart scoop” to picking what type of brew you’d like, it’s simple enough to use even while bleary-eyed in the morning. It’s also easy to schedule a delayed brew so you can do the rest of your morning routine while your coffee brews. (Here’s the only drawback I can think of about this machine: When it starts brewing, it’s kind of noisy—loud enough to make my cats jump. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if you live in a small apartment and plan to brew coffee so that it’s ready right when you wake up, it might be something to consider.)

The system even tells you when it needs to be descaled. The “clean” button will light up, at which point you simply fill the water reservoir with descaling solution and water and press the clean button. A countdown lets you know how much longer the clean cycle will last.

Taste and Flavor

I swapped out an old, cheap coffee maker for the Hot & Cold Brewed System, and the difference was immediately noticeable. Whether hot or cold, the coffee made by the H&CBS was a better, smoother cup of joe. That’s due to what Ninja has dubbed Thermal Flavor Extraction automated brewing technology, which, according to a press release, “knows the precise temperatures, correct bloom times, and proper levels of saturation for every possible beverage combination to ensure a great taste every time.”

Whatever tech they use, it works. The coffee I make in this machine is consistently tasty. The rich brew setting works exactly as advertised, too, providing a richer, bolder flavor than the classic brew.

Features and Accessories

One of the best things about the H&CBS is the fact that it cuts down on waste significantly. Unlike other machines, it doesn't require any plastic pods or paper filters. Instead, it comes with two permanent filters, one for coffee and one for tea.

And the cold brew function is a game changer if you prefer iced coffee to hot. Not only does it brew quickly, but it eliminates the messy cleanup that comes with making cold brew yourself.

Typically priced at $230 for the thermal carafe version (or $200 for the glass carafe), the Hot & Cold Brewed System is significantly more expensive than a simpler drip coffee machine. But if you’re a cold brew addict looking to treat yourself, it’s worth it. Consider springing for the slightly more expensive thermal carafe model, which will keep your java hot or cold for hours. (I’ve left ice in it overnight and found cubes the next morning.)

You can get the Hot & Cold Brewed System on Amazon, Walmart, Macy's, or directly on Ninja’s website starting at $160.

AT&T Is Now Blocking Robocalls by Default, a First for Cell Phone Providers

Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images

Nothing gets under the skin quite like robocalls, those irritating and persistent attempts to sell questionable services and perpetuate moneymaking scams. A recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling finally paved the way for cell phone carriers to block the calls by default, rather than requiring consumers to opt into a blocking service to stop them.

Now, AT&T is doing exactly that. But if consumers want to block all robocalls, they’ll still have to pay a little extra.

AT&T just announced an expansion of its Call Protect service that will automatically block robocalls suspected to be fraudulent free of charge. Users are also free to manually block individual numbers of known spam callers. But if a consumer wants to automatically block all robocalls, even those from legitimate businesses, it will cost an additional $4 a month.

Call Protect was previously an opt-in feature: Users had to change their phone settings in order to take advantage of it. Due to the FCC ruling, AT&T can now activate Call Protect on all phones.

The benefit is expected to be available to all new AT&T service sign-ups, with existing users added in the coming months. If you don’t want to wait, you can download Call Protect as an app or turn it on via your AT&T account.

While AT&T is the first carrier to make the blocking feature a default, other cell phone providers offer similar functionality. T-Mobile’s Scam Block service blocks likely spam calls, while Verizon’s Call Filter and Sprint’s Premium Caller ID apps perform essentially the same function.

It’s expected robocalls will continue to face an uphill battle in an effort to reach consumers. The FCC also mandated that providers verify calls at the network level before reaching the consumer using a framework known as SHAKEN/STIR, or Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited standard. Clunky? Maybe. But the standard allows for carriers to catch suspected spam or fraud calls before they reach the consumer. All cell phone providers must implement it before the end of the year.

While nothing is likely to ever completely eliminate robocalls, at least we're making progress.

[h/t ZDNet]

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