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Archive for December, 2010

3D video recording for our cautious, financially strapped, troubled times

The world has gone 3D loco. We’ve got 3D movies, 3D HDTV, and Blu-ray 3D. The NFL is working on 3D football broadcasts, and we think it’s only a matter of time before Pepsico begins marketing Gatorade 3D.

Yep, consumers are jumping on the 3D bandwagon with cautious interest if not enthusiasm, which is why ViewSonic’s new 3DV5 video recorder is intriguing: It costs just $180, which is a very low barrier to entry for 3D skeptics. The 3DV5 can record 3D, 720p video that can be played back on any 3D-capable TV or display. And it’s got an autostereoscopic 3D screen (“Look, mom, no nerd glasses!”) to boot. 

We decided not to show the 3DV5’s 3D interface since we didn’t know if you’d have the right glasses for the effect.

Two 5-megapixel sensors inside the 3DV5 capture 30fps video for surprisingly effective 3D playback. You can view your 3D content right on the 2.4-inch LCD screen (more about that soon), but we think most enthusiasts will opt for playback on a 3D TV, computer display, or notebook (connectivity options include a full USB connector and HDMI). The 3DV5 also features on-board 3D conversion, so you’ll be able to upload your movies to YouTube’s 3D channel and watch your videos online with a pair of old-school red/cyan 3D glasses.

Viewed on a large Samsung 3D HDTV equipped with shutter glasses, the image-quality limitations of the 3DV5 begin to emerge. Sure, some of our test videos really did demonstrate the same kind of 3D spatial effects you see in Hollywood movies, but oftentimes the actual image quality, even at 720p, looked uncommonly low-res. The videos ran smoothly, however, and when we purposely filmed something to capture an obvious 3D effect (for example, someone slowly punching at the camera), the gimmick really worked.

The 3DV5’s built-in autostereoscopic display is an interesting—but ultimately failed—attempt at 3D viewing without the need for special eyewear. The display relies on parallax barrier 3D technology, and for the most part it falls short of delivering the 3D depth and separation that you’ll see in a movie theater or on a living room HDTV. Spatial effects were prone to popping back and forth between 3D and 2D, and we found that the picture eventually began hurting our eyes (which, over time, began hurting our heads).

Regardless of where we were viewing our content, we found that the 3D image “splits” when you shoot with the camera too close to a subject. This presents a conundrum, because one’s inclination is to position the subject up close in the foreground—thus distinguishing it from the background for a richer 3D effect. We did, however, find that zooming the lenses toward our subjects—rather than positioning subjects extremely close-up from the get-go—could remedy the splitting problem. Just use this technique sparingly, because the 3DV5’s digital zoom is crummy. Two or three stops up, and pixilation levels shoot to the moon. 

Still, many of these gripes can be forgiven when you consider the price. For $180, you get yourself a fully functioning HD camcorder that can shoot 2D stills, 2D video, 3D stills and 3D video. ViewSonic has proven that budget 3D video capture can work, and they did it first. And that counts for something.

ViewSonic 3DV5 3D HD Camcorder

SONIC BURGERS

Affordable. Portable. Easy to use. 3D works reasonably well.

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

Low-res and grainy. Bad digital zoom. Disappointing onboard 3D LCD.

score:8

You’ve probably noticed the explosion over the last few years of clever domain names ending in ‘.ly’. This is the top level domain for Libya. A new domain has just come on the market, and we imagine clever people all over the world are about to get their startups off the ground with .ng sites.  Anything that can work as a suffix is likely to attract some money, and in this case, the money goes right to Nigeria for their .ng top level domain. 

The Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NIRA) has approved 27 registrars to begin selling the domains, but most have not updated their sites to do so as of yet. Many existing companies could be looking to snap up these domains to a void squatting or impersonation. An example offered up is that Facebook might buy Facebooki.ng. 

So get ready for every single word’s present progressive tense to become a domain name. There are a lot of -ing words out there to build sites around. This may also give Nigerian email scammers a new element to work into their cons. But anyway, enjoy your New Year and don’t do too much drinki.ng tonight.

.ng

 

According to ZD Net, some Android users are becoming frustrated with the lack of progress on a particularly annoying bug. Many users have reported that an SMS bug in the mobile OS can cause messages to be sent to the wrong number in some instances. A search of the Google Code site indicates this has been an issues ever since the first Froyo builds rolled out back in June. It is currently listed as ‘Medium’ priority.

The degree to which this bug crops up seems to vary wildly. Some users report being able to reproduce it upon request with a  series of somewhat complicated steps. Another piece of the puzzle is more common, and involves simply being routed to the wrong place. Tapping on the Messaging icon, or a message notification can sometimes route the user to the wrong Messaging thread. It could be easy to fire off a text here without noticing.

We’ve never experienced the first bug on our Android phones. The second, and less severe SMS bug has come up occasionally, but not often. Have any of you Android users noticed any SMS being sent to the wrong person?

android

 

A few weeks ago, OffHollywood studio head Mark Pederson became the first person to receive a new RED EPIC camera. This uber-expensive, high resolution digital camcorder cost Mr. Pederson a whopping $53,000. Now, it’s been stolen in a home break-in, Engadget reports. Pederson posted the news on the REDUSER forums.

While Pederson and his family were sleeping obliviously, miscreants broke in, and stole money and the $58,000 camera. The theft went undetected until the family awoke the next day. It is unlikely that the thieves knew exactly what they were stealing. You can’t exactly take a RED camera down to the local pawn shop without drawing some attention. Let’s hope that the perpetrators are clueless enough to do just that.

red

 

This year, I’m trying to do something different with game of the year awards. You can find a full explanation in part one, but the gist is this: I’m eschewing a list – because, let’s face it, you’ve already skimmed 10,000 top-10s – in favor of writing about how these games affected their players and the specific moment that made me realized how great each game really was. Needless to say, SPOILER WARNING. Now then, on with today’s pick: Fallout: New Vegas.

I’ve seen some stuff, man. I’ve seen some stuff. Fallout: New Vegas is about as variety packed as videogame worlds come, fully capable of evoking every major emotion in the book: happiness, sadness, anger, “OH SH** DEATHCLAW” – you name it. Most impressive, though, is the game’s masterful ability to manipulate players’ curiosity like a big red button with the words “Do Not Press” printed on it.

It’s like you’re some kind of post-apocalyptic private eye. Why is this office full of bloodthirsty robots? What’s a lush green forest doing in this underground vault? Uh, how is Elvis still alive? Each of the game’s many, many, many areas hooks you with questions before carefully reeling you in with a slow stream of incomplete answers. You have to put all the pieces together and get the full picture, though. It’s this compulsive, almost overwhelming urge. If curiosity killed the cat, then Fallout – perhaps fittingly – is a WMD.

But there are “typical” (read: not typical at all) New Vegas adventures, and then there’s the time the game truly, profoundly, “so much for sleeping tonight” disturbed me.

Vault 11 seemed innocent enough at first. I spun open its massive steel door expecting the worst, but out stepped a pair of brittle, apparently suicidal mantises. Their basic survival instincts abandoned them the second they took a look at my massive suit of power armor and thought “No man, no. I can totally take this guy.” So I ventured deeper. More mantises. A cakewalk, you say? Don’t mind if I do.

And then I started taking notice of my surroundings. Propaganda posters were plastered all over the claustrophobic steel walls. I figured it was just a routine election for Vault Overseer and returned to my almost comical war against a stupidly determined community of mantises. But then I found a terminal.

Now, it’s important to note that Vault 11 was more or less a ghost town. It was a bit strange, sure, but friendly faces are a rarity in Vaults, so I didn’t think much of it. One thing did strike me as odd, though: no bodies. If the Vault’s rightful owners had bitten the big one because mantises decided to chomp on their faces, you’d figure that there would at least be a few bones lying around. The terminal, however, cast everything in a new light.

Elections had been taking place all right, but something was very off about them. Candidates didn’t want to be elected. In fact, their back-and-forth messages made it sound like they’d have rather taken a bullet than a term in office. So I dug deeper. More terminals. Apparently, one woman went so far as to perform sexual favors for a bunch of  monstrously manipulative men after they threatened to nominate her husband for Overseer. “Messed up” doesn’t even begin to describe it. But it got worse. Much, much worse.

Turns out, each Overseer was to be sacrificed to something within the Vault at the end of their respective terms. Otherwise, the Vault would wipe out its entire population. It didn’t forgive what people did to each other to avoid their grisly fates, but at least it made sense. So then, one question remained: why did these people have to die? My answer lied underneath the Overseer’s chamber.

A long hallway. A voice telling me to walk toward “the light.” I was a bit shaken, sure, but still alive and kicking. After a bright light nearly blinded me, I found myself in a wide open room with a chair at its center and a projection screen on the wall. I sat in the chair. As soon my armor-plated backside touched the seat, the projector whirred to life. What I saw next was… chilling. The projection told me to accept death while essentially reminding me of all the major life experiences I’d be missing out on. Dying, its disarmingly calm voice said, was my purpose, and other people were meant to live – to do what I could not.

And then the walls folded away, and a small army of kill-bots and sentry turrents opened fire with all the enthusiasm of machines programmed specifically to murder that only got to release their pent up urges every four years. Suddenly, my mantis buddies from earlier didn’t seem so bad.

Looking a lot more like Swiss cheese, I barely emerged as the victor. A new door had unlocked, I noticed, so I dragged my beaten sack of broken bones up to a large computer terminal. To my surprise, it congratulated me. 

The whole thing, as it turns out, was a test. The Vault’s threats of wiping out the entire population unless a sacrifice was offered were idle bluffs. People were supposed to refuse, because – seriously – who’d be able to live with themselves after trading another human life to save their own?

According to the computer, a grand total of five people remained when they finally refused to turn on each other. Yeah. Too little, too late is a gross understatement.

Looking back, of course, I see it as an example of modern-day Fallout’s storytelling style perfected. An utterly engrossing trail of environmental clues, a narrative that doesn’t unfold unless the player takes an active role in discovering it, and a horrifying (though undeniably provocative) examination of what humans are capable of when their backs are against the wall — Vault 11 had it all.

Even so, what I remember best was lying in bed afterward – in pitch black darkness with only a lightly howling wind outside to keep me company – wondering what I’d do if I was forced into a similar situation. It’s easy to play the hero in videogames. Rare, however, is the videogame that forces you to realize you probably couldn’t do the same in real life.

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