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  When Wiimotes Break Free  
Posted 2006-11-21 by Tony Walsh
Early this year, I predicted the Nintendo Wii's wireless motion-sensitive controllers would facilitate personal injury, and while reports haven't exactly been flooding in, it's only a matter of time. The "Wiimote" controller wrist-straps seem to be flawed--in two cases, at least, the controller has been inadvertently flung across the room. One such incident, according to the goons at SomethingAwful, resulted in the wounding of a 60" rear-projection TV. Another incident, reported by IGN via ad-supported video, followed the same pattern: wrist-strap breakage sends Wiimote flying, which results in property damage. Were these rogue Wiimotes badly-manufactured, or are we looking at a design flaw here? My hunch is that there's going to be a product recall in the future. It's bad enough people are waving their hands around wildly while standing withing striking distance of each other--add faulty straps to the mix and someone's going to lose an eye one of these days.
  Big Weekend For Game Consoles  
Posted 2006-11-17 by Tony Walsh
Just in case you've been living under a rock, this weekend marks a major outburst of consumer lust related to the retail availability of the Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii in North America. The two next-gen consoles took their sweet time getting to market, and now appear to be in short supply for launch weekend--conveniently, this is making for all sorts of headlines as the mainstream media boggles at rabid gamers lining up or punching each other in the face for a chance at picking one of the consoles up. We are on the cusp of a new round of the console wars. My prediction: Xbox 360 FTW, followed by the Wii, then the PS3. I'll grab a Wii in 2007, but I won't touch a PS3 unless I have to.
  ‘Ultimate Game Table’ Up For Auction  
Posted 2006-11-14 by Tony Walsh
The Ultimate Game Table is finally up for auction after being born in Daniel Davis' lair five years ago. Last I heard, it had eaten three D&D players, four Champions newbies and one Vampire Storyteller, but that could all be just rumour. The heavy-duty construct seats six gamers and comes equipped with enough features to make the mightiest Dungeon Master kneel in awe. Integrated subwoofers and lighting, steel message-orbs, secret compartments... even reading this post about the Ultimate Game Table will cause you to lose 1d6 Sanity Points.
  Nintendo’s Wi-Fi and Apple’s AirPort  
Posted 2006-11-07 by Tony Walsh
I finally got my DS Lite hooked up to Nintendo's gaming network, thanks to a copy of Mario Kart DS and my Apple AirPort Express wireless internet station. This saved me having to go out and buy an official USB connector or any other gadgetry. I had to search around a lot to find out how to connect to the AirPort, so I figured I'd post here with general instructions in case others find it useful. First of all, the DS should have no problem finding your network. Make sure you've set up your AirPort with a WEP password (I chose 128-bit encryption). Then just enter the password when prompted by the DS. Piece of cake. I had read something about having to convert the password to Hex prior to entry, but that wasn't necessary. If you've changed your AirPort password, you're going to have to enter it the next time you try to log on with your computer.

So I'm set up to take on the world at Mario Kart DS. I'm playing under the nickname "TonyW" and Friend Code 459644769437. See you on the racetrack.
  Game Dev Kits Upgraded for Xbox 360  
Posted 2006-11-02 by Tony Walsh
Microsoft's "XNA Game Studio Express" development kits for the Xbox 360 console were upgraded today, allowing small-time gamers to roll their own creations. While still in beta, the kits offer improved functionality for developers, most notably the ability to preview games in production. The free software can be downloaded directly from Microsoft, but migration of created games to the Xbox 360 platform will require membership to the XNA Creators Club, available by the end of this year via Xbox Live's Marketplace for $99 USD annually. Further details here.

In related news, GarageGames released an Xbox 360 version of their Torque Engine as a closed beta-test today. The Torque kit combines "Torque Game Builder, Torque Game Engine and Torque Shader Engine into one package on top of the XNA platform, giving even non-programmers a great set of tools and technology to easily create games using drag-n-drop interfaces."
  Xbox 360 Features Unlocked Tomorrow  
Posted 2006-10-30 by Tony Walsh
Xbox 360 game consoles will magically receive new features starting October 31, the company announced via its Gamerscore blog today. The treat is a patch downloaded through Xbox Live that will bestow Xbox 360 consoles with the ability to display 1080p resolution and 50hz HDTV display modes, stream WMV video directly from a Windows PC, and play video files (bootlegged TV shows and porn?) from data CDs and DVDs. The trick is that these new features were enabled with a simple software patch rather than a hardware upgrade. Seems like the patch simply unlocks existing Xbox 360 capabilities, not unlike the original Xbox's DVD-playback, enabled with an add-on hardware dongle.
  The Computer Says You’re Violent  
Posted 2006-10-27 by Tony Walsh
Have you ever wondered who might be watching any of the surveillance cameras mounted around your city? According to NewScientistTech, it's not "who" will be watching, but "what." A computer may some day review closed-circuit camera footage, deciding whether or not violent activities have transpired. The technology, still in development, analyzes footage frame by frame, trying to match pixel-clusters against a model of the human form. The makers of the system believe they can determine what an interaction means. "For example, when identifying two people shaking hands, their hands must not only be close, but must also move in synchrony." Asynchronous movement might not be a handshake, but a punching-match, believe the inventors. "On average, the system was 80% accurate at identifying these activities correctly."

I'm glad to read the makers of the system recognize it has a long way to go. Personally, I think technology like this is going to turn up too many false positives to be useful: How do we know when two people are play-fighting as opposed to real-fighting? Is playing paper-rock-scissors or doing Tai Chi going to alert the police? Daydreaming about the social ramifications, I see flash-mobs staging "false positive" events such as breakdancing, crunking, or pillow-fighting in public spaces--would the authorities then feel obligated to restrict our freedom of expression to make up for a technological failing?
  Electric Bikes Get Kickstart in Ontario, Finally  
Posted 2006-10-04 by Tony Walsh
I've had my eye on electric scooters for about seven years, but never managed to get a straight answer from Toronto City Hall or the local cops about the legality of riding such vehicles around town. Authorities didn't seem to know how to classify them, and it seemed to be up to the whims of an individual officer to ticket (or not), depending on a personal interpretation of road rules. But things are looking up. CityNews reportsProvince of Ontario "has now cleared the way for so-called e-bikes, two wheelers that use an electronic engine when needed to help a rider get up a steep hill...The three-year test plan will let cyclists take their e-bikes on any route where they could use a normal bicycle." Hot diggity. I'll have to look into the definition of "e-bike," because I'd rather drive a compact 2-wheeled vehicle on local streets than a full-sized e-bike.
  Armed Robot to Patrol Korean Border  
Posted 2006-09-29 by Tony Walsh
South Korea unleashed its very own battlemech yesterday, intended to hunt down and "supress" North Koreans at the border and eventually become part of the army's regular forces. Reported capabilities include:
  • Detect humans at distances of up to 2km
  • Armed with machine gun and rubber bullet weapon.
  • Identify an enemy at distances up to 10m through a password. ["You have ten seconds to comply!"]
  • Sensor-activated alarm systems and closed-circuit TV cameras
It remains to be seen if the robots will be a more cost-effective alternative to humans in the long run.

If it ever gets to the point where both sides are using robots, the Koreans might as well put the hardware away and settle their differences through video game simulations of robot armies fighting over accurately-modeled terrain. If one side could easily overpower the other in the simulated war, why bother to conduct a real one? Game over, man--and without spilling an ocean of blood.
  Twitch-Games For iPod:  Don’t Bother  
Posted 2006-09-22 by Tony Walsh
Twitch-Games For iPod:  Don’t Bother
My doubts about the viability of the iPod click-wheel as a controller for games have been confirmed. After having tinkered with Pac-Man for the iPod last night, I'm of the opinion that arcade-style games are practically inoperaple on the iPod. The click-wheel is a terrible control device for 4-direction movement, due to the oversensitivity of the wheel and the distance the buttons (both one-handed and two-handed operation seems equally challenging); the classic Pac-Man, which requires rapid direction-changes, becomes an exercise in frustration. If this isn't enough of a disincentive for you, the games seem to hit the iPod battery quite hard. In short, twitch-games for the iPod seem to be a stupid idea.
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