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Industry & Technology

Google reveals gaming platform Stadia

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 6:33pm
The new digital platform will stream games over the internet at console-like quality, the company said.

At Bennu, NASA finds a mysterious, boulder-strewn asteroid

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 6:30pm

Enlarge / These images of the asteroid Bennu’s northern hemisphere show it covered with rocks. (credit: NASA)

After traveling more than 2 billion kilometers through outer space over the course of 27 months, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Bennu in early December of last year. Since arriving, the spacecraft's five scientific instruments have been surveying the 490-meter wide asteroid to better understand its properties and find a safe landing site from which to gather samples for a return to Earth.

On Tuesday, the first results of these scientific inquiries were published in seven papers that appeared in Nature and a handful of its research journals. The seven papers are collated on this website.

In some respects, Bennu is about what scientists expected—a "rubble pile" of stony meteorites that have aggregated under the influence of microgravity. Scientists were able to determine that the density of the asteroid is about 1,190kg per cubic meter. By way of comparison, a potato has a density of about 700kg per cubic meter, and dry gravel about 1,500kg per cubic meter.

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The SEC calls for new contempt sanctions for Elon Musk

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 6:15pm
US financial regulator has called for sanctions after Mr Musk tweeted without seeking Tesla's approval.

Google jumps into gaming with Google Stadia streaming service, coming “in 2019”

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 6:13pm

Enlarge / The Google Stadia controller, which includes a few custom buttons. The service will also support wired USB controllers and mouse-and-keyboard controls. (credit: Google)

SAN FRANCISCO—At the Game Developers Conference, Google announced its biggest play yet in the gaming space: a streaming game service named Google Stadia, designed to run on everything from PCs and Android phones to Google's own Chromecast devices.

As of press time, the service's release window is simply "2019." No pricing information was announced at the event.

Google Stadia will run a selection of existing PC games on Google's centralized servers, taking in controller inputs and sending back video and audio using Google's network of low-latency data centers. The company revealed a new Google-produced controller, along with a game-streaming interface that revolves around a "play now" button. Press this on any Web browser and gameplay will begin "in as quick as five seconds... with no download, no patch, no update, and no install."

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Tracking tools found on EU government and health websites

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 5:34pm
The trackers, used to monitor user behaviour online, were found on thousands of official web pages.

Facebook: No one reported NZ shooting video during 17-minute livestream

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 4:57pm

Enlarge / CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—MARCH 19: People look on as men pray in a park near Al Noor mosque after a terrorist attack that killed 50 people. (credit: Getty Images | Carl Court)

Facebook says a livestream of last week's New Zealand mass shooting was viewed fewer than 200 times during its live broadcast and that nobody reported the video to Facebook while the livestream was ongoing.

"The first user report on the original video came in 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended," Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby wrote in an update posted yesterday.

Ultimately, the original Facebook Live video of the terrorist attack "was viewed about 4,000 times in total before being removed from Facebook," the company said. Video of the attack was uploaded many times after the original was removed, and a few hundred thousand videos were viewable on Facebook before being taken down.

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

US politician Devin Nunes sues Twitter over insults

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 4:38pm
A Republican congressman said the platform didn't crack down on "defamatory" tweets.

Corporations, not consumers, drive demand for HP’s new VR headset

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 3:24pm

Enlarge (credit: HP)

HP was one of the many companies that built a virtual reality headset for the Windows Mixed Reality platform which launched back in 2017. Microsoft provided a SteamVR-compatible software platform, controller design, and inside-out, six-axis, positional-tracking technology; hardware companies like HP provided the rest, greatly reducing the price of PC-attached virtual reality.

Today, HP is launching the Reverb Virtual Reality Headset Professional Edition. As the name might imply, the audience for this isn't the consumer space, it's the commercial space. The headset will have a near-identical consumer version, but HP's focus is very much on the pro unit because that's where the company has seen the most solid uptake of VR tech. The big VR win isn't gaming or any other consumer applications: it's visualization, for fields such as engineering, architecture, education, and entertainment, combining VR headsets with motion-actuated seating to build virtual rides. The company has also found that novelty items such as its VR backpack have also found a role in the corporate space, with companies using them to allow free movement around virtual worlds and objects.

Accordingly, HP's second-gen headset is built for these enterprise customers in mind. Their demands were pretty uniform and in many ways consistent with consumer demands, with the big ones being more resolution and more comfort. To that end, it now has a resolution of 2160×2160 per eye, using an LCD with a 90Hz refresh rate. The optics have also been improved through the use of aspherical lenses, for a 114-degree (diagonal) field of view. AMOLED screens are common in this space, but HP said that it preferred LCD because LCD panels use full red, green, and blue subpixels rather than the pentile arrangement that remains common for AMOLED.

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Vote Leave fined over thousands of unsolicited texts

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 2:48pm
The group could not prove that everybody who received its promotional message had consented.

Snapchat under scrutiny from MPs over 'addictive' streaks

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 2:02pm
Executives promise to examine a Snapchat feature which has been criticised as potentially addictive.

Apple finally updates the iMac with significantly more powerful CPU and GPU options

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 1:30pm

Today, Apple will finally begin taking orders for newly refreshed 21- and 27-inch iMacs. The new versions don't change the basic design or add major new features, but they offer substantially faster configuration options for the CPU and GPU.

The 21.5-inch iMac now has a 6-core, eighth-generation Intel CPU option—up from a maximum of four cores before. The 27-inch now has six cores as the standard configuration, with an optional upgrade to a 3.6GHz, 9th-gen, 8-core Intel Core i9 CPU that Apple claims will double performance over the previous 27-inch iMac. The base 27-inch model has a 3GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 CPU, with intermediate configurations at 3.1GHz and 3.7GHz (both Core i5).

The big news is arguably that both sizes now offer high-end, workstation-class Vega-graphics options for the first time. Apple added a similar upgrade option to the 15-inch MacBook Pro late last year.

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How OpenXR could glue virtual reality’s fragmenting market together

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 12:42pm

Enlarge / OpenXR is like a girl reaching for a moon, or something... (credit: Khronos)

Consumer-grade virtual reality (and, to a lesser extent, augmented reality) is only a few years old, but it’s already an extremely fragmented market. Wikipedia lists almost 30 distinct VR headsets released by dozens of hardware makers since 2015. Creating a game that works seamlessly with all of these headsets (and their various runtime environments) can be a headache even for the biggest studios.

OpenXR is out to change all that. With Monday’s release of the OpenXR provisional specification, Khronos’ open source working group wants to create a world where developers can code their VR/AR experience for a single API, with the confidence that the resulting application will work on any OpenXR-compliant headset.

"By accessing a common set of objects and functions corresponding to application life cycle, rendering, tracking, frame timing, and input, which are frustratingly different across existing vendor-specific APIs, software developers can run their applications across multiple XR systems with minimal porting effort—significantly reducing industry fragmentation," Khronos said in a statement announcing the provisional release.

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Facebook: New Zealand attack video viewed 4,000 times

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 12:32pm
Facebook says 4,000 people viewed the original attack video and fewer than 200 watched it live.

Thunderstorm with eye-popping 720GJ of energy

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 11:30am

Enlarge (credit: John Fowler / Flickr)

Nothing says "I love diving headfirst into a ditch" like your hair suddenly elevating to the tingly feel of electricity. Thunderstorms are amazing from inside a building, but they're scary if you're trapped outside. And, despite a good deal of observation, an element of mystery surrounds them. For instance, we know that lightning can produce free neutrons, antimatter, and gamma rays, but we don't have much idea of how that happens.

That has partially changed thanks to an Indian muon telescope, called GRAPES-3—a classic example of a backronym. GRAPES-3 is designed to detect muons (a heavier cousin to the electron and positron) that are generated as gamma rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a relatively simple detector that has the benefit of covering a reasonable chunk of sky with good angular resolution. The detectors are also buried under a thick layer of concrete, so muons need to be quite energetic to get to them.

Prediction: Lightning with a chance of telescopes

GRAPES-3 doesn’t actually care where the muons come from; it just happily counts away. Evidently, the scientists running the detector noticed that their data would always go a bit skewiff every time a thunderstorm passed over. Instead of ignoring this, the researchers (while keeping their heads low), installed a set of electric field monitors at various distances from the observatory and started logging electric field strength every time a storm passed over. That data could be easily compared to the muon detection rate. Unsurprisingly, storms are complex beasts, resulting in a lot of data that simply couldn’t be interpreted.

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Ocado sales hit by warehouse fire

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 11:22am
The firm had more orders per week, but their average size was slightly lower.

Huge aluminium plants hit by 'severe' ransomware attack

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 11:22am
The Norwegian firm, which employs 35,000 people worldwide, has switched to manual controls at some plants.

Unity unveils new ties to Nvidia RTX pipeline, takes shots at Unreal

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 2:30am

Enlarge / The 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe, as rendered in real time using the Unity graphics engine and its newly announced Nvidia RTX pipeline of ray tracing. (credit: Unity / BMW)

SAN FRANCISCO—Unity, one of the leading 3D-rendering systems used to build modern video games, kicked off GDC 2019 with a keynote presentation that took aim at its primary rival, Unreal Engine 4.

"We have no interest in creating experiences that compete with your hobbies or your businesses," Unity CEO John Riccitiello told the keynote's crowd on Monday night. (This was a not-so-subtle dig at how Unreal's creators at Epic Games use their engine to power the mega-popular Fortnite.) "We're here to build the platform that serves you, the developer, and serves you alone."

While the keynote emphasized Unity's affinity for lower-end devices, particularly smartphones, it concluded with an emphasis on the highest-of-end machines: a partnership with Nvidia to bring its proprietary RTX ray tracing pipeline to any Unity video game.

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Call of Duty Mobile announced for iOS, Android, made by China’s Tencent

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 1:23am

SAN FRANCISCO—Activision has taken the wraps off its first major Call of Duty video game for smartphones. The title is simple enough: Call of Duty Mobile. The online, multiplayer-only game will arrive later this year, but neither Activision nor any of its Western CoD-focused studios will lead the game's development.

Instead, dev duties will be handled by Tencent, one of China's leading mobile-game publishing houses. Activision clarified that Timi Studio, makers of the popular mobile game Arena of Valor, will lead development within Tencent.

Call of Duty Mobile was unveiled at today's Unity keynote presentation as part of the 2019 Game Developer Conference, because it has been built in the Unity Engine. An Activision representative at the Unity event said that players can expect "beloved maps, competitive game modes, and signature combat mechanics from [Call of Duty entries like] Black Ops and Modern Warfare." Teased maps coming to the series' first-ever mobile version include Nuketown, Hijacked, and Crash, and fans can expect traditional CoD multiplayer systems like kill streaks.

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Why are Venezuelans seeking refuge in crypto-currencies?

BBC Technology News - March 19, 2019 - 1:05am
As Venezuela staggers under political and economic crises, its citizens are embracing digital money.

Boeing downplayed 737 MAX software risks, self-certified much of plane’s safety

Ars Technica - March 19, 2019 - 12:12am

Enlarge (credit: Boeing)

On Sunday, Ethiopia's transport minister announced that information recovered from flight data recorders aboard the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 revealed "clear similarities" to the data from the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 off Indonesia last October. And analysis of the wreckage indicated that the aircraft's control surfaces had put the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 into a dive just before it crashed, killing all aboard.

While the investigation is still underway, the flight data increases the focus on Boeing's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight software—software developed to help manage the shifted handling characteristics of the 737 MAX aircraft from other 737s. And that software, it turns out, was originally presented to the Federal Aviation Administration as much less risky than it actually was, which limited FAA oversight.

Now the Transportation Department and Justice Department have launched a new investigation into how Boeing got the initial safety certification for the 737 MAX from the FAA two years ago.

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