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Eye-tracking software can gauge your intent and boredom in VR

Eyefluence, a company that's rooted in optics, AI, machine learning and mechanical engineering, has built an interface that lets a user communicate with a virtual environment through sight alone. The idea is to convert looking into action. So the software enables you to use your eyes to do anything that you would do with a finger on a smartphone. No more typing, clicking, swiping or even talking. With a display in front of you, you would be able to navigate a menu, launch applications, pan, zoom and scroll, and even slip in information simply by looking.

Beyond the boost in productivity, though, one of the most compelling applications of this eye-machine interaction is in immersive storytelling. The eyes, when distracted or focused, can give away what a viewer is feeling in a moment. The Eyefluence software is designed to take advantage of those clues to know when you're interested in a scene, captivated by a character or feeling bored.

"Your eyes are the fastest-moving organs in your body," says Eyefluence CEO and founder Jim Marggraff in a short film called The Language of Looking. The movie, embedded below, is a part of the annual Future of Storytelling summit that brings together interdisciplinary innovators to discuss the challenges of telling stories in a digital world. Here, Marggraff explains the difficulty of immersive storytelling and how sight can be used to fire up an interface that pushes the narrative forward in virtual reality.

After watching the film, I spoke to Marggraff to find out how the eyes can have an impact on immersive storytelling in particular.

How does "the language of looking" fit into storytelling in VR?

There are a lot of problems in storytelling that need to be grappled with. I've sat with filmmakers and talked about the challenges that they have. [It starts with] shifting the mind-set, to say we're going to make the user a consequential participant in the story, meaning that what they do has a consequence in the arc of the story. It's a new thinking. Typically, as a storyteller, you want complete control; you guide the [viewers'] eyes, their moods, so they're sensitive to the beats of the story as it unfolds. Essentially, every scene directs them and manages their emotions throughout. But now, by reclassifying the user as a participant, when you [let them] have consequence in the story, you give them a degree of autonomy.

"By reclassifying the user as a participant, when you let them have consequence in the story, you give them a degree of autonomy."

Some of the known challenges with the medium are teleportation, locomotion and nausea. But more significant are some of the challenges in maintaining a sense of rhythm in the flow of the story. If I let you run off and start examining something around a corner, you don't necessarily know how to stay engaged with that, you could put yourself in a boring position. How do we maintain that flow and the urgency in the beats of the story? It can be done. The software looks at the participant's behavior to decide when it needs to move them along, when to deliver key points on the story level. So we know where you are, what you're looking at, what you're interested in and where you've lost interest. We can guide you back to the storyline at any time.

What is it about sight that makes it an appropriate solution for challenges in VR?

There are so many things we can do to take advantage of knowing what you see, what you're aware of, what you're not aware of and actually changing things around you without you even knowing. That all can happen with a deep understanding of how your eyes and your brain perceive information.

With the eyes, you can navigate in a large information space more rapidly than any thing else. Inside VR environments, for instance, where you have large amounts of information in a headset, you can look around. We give you the means to not just see a function [like a message or a browser] but activate it and move into a new space. For instance, you can search for photographs and find them more rapidly than before. It's a mixture of purposeful and nonpurposeful motions, to be able to search through a list of 1,000 names and find the one you're looking for with your eyes only without scrolling, flicking or tapping. The eyes are the fastest moving part of your body. It's as quick as thinking and looking. It's quicker than even speaking to get things done.

But it's also about what I like to call "sensuality" -- it gets your senses engaged and the result is very satisfying. We've gotten feedback from people who say: "The system feels as if it's reading your mind." It's not. It's reading your intent and that comes from the signals. It's a new kind of language that needs to be learned.

In the film you mention your collaboration with Rival Theory, the VR content studio that generates characters for virtual reality storylines. In what ways do the Eyefluence techniques work with these characters?

It works with characters that are in a live film or rendered; both have their beauty and challenges. Let's consider a rendered character like [Rival Theory's] that's also an AI. It can have memory. It has a personality that evolves over time in relation to you as a participant, specifically with you. It knows you and the relationships you have. It comforts you in an upsetting event when you've cried. For example, if the character is a child who loses his best friend who slipped through a crevice while climbing and you see the child and you console them. That child character forms a connection with you based on eye interaction. The AI forms a memory of it and it can come back any time. It builds a bond between you and the character. We know the power of being able to look at someone, see when they avert your gaze, when their eyes well up in reaction to something you've said. This kind of connection has not existed before within the medium.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/eyefluence/

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Comcast’s Rio portal is a good way to keep up with the Olympics

The Road to Rio homepage is accessible through the main menu that X1 customers already use. You can find live events to watch directly from there or you can search by athlete, sport and nation. What's more, you'll be able to add these people, teams and countries to a favorites list so you can more easily keep track of them -- not unlike a browser bookmark. Conversely, if you're just casually following the games and want to see nothing but the highlights, the platform will push "Must See Moments" notifications throughout the day whenever a marquee event is happening. You'll have to opt in for this feature, either through the NBC Sports App or through the Rio portal.

Comcast isn't just providing an easier way to find the events you want to follow -- it's also giving viewers tons of information about what is happening onscreen. Comcast's development team combed through millions of pieces of data about the games and their participants and integrated them into the broadcast. Users can instantly pull up leaderboards, gold medal counts, athlete trivia and a host of other informational tidbits. These will display on screen next to the broadcast. I'm not sure why they wouldn't just push that stuff to your mobile device so you don't have to split the screen, but that's how it is.

So, say you're watching Gabby Douglas performing her floor routine. With X1, you'll be able to pull up a submenu with details about her and links to video clips of her past performances. Or if you're not feeling the floor routine, you can switch over to the live stream of another gymnastics event -- like the balance beam or uneven bars. These live streams come through the NBC Sports app so they won't be as polished and produced as what the network proper carries, but it's still better than not seeing them at all. And, if you miss an event entirely, don't freak out. Every episode of the NBC and Telemundo Primetime Shows will be available on Xfinity On Demand the next day.

With Telemundo and NBC working hand-in-hand on these broadcasts, Comcast customers will have some flexibility in which language they hear when they watch. That is, NBC's English broadcast will be mirrored on Telemundo in Spanish throughout the games. What's more, viewers can use the voice search function on the Xfinity remote in either language (or a mix of them, a Comcast rep told me). And for blind and visually impaired subscribers, Xfinity is providing live video description for every episode of the prime-time show.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/comcast-rio-portal/

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Wikileaks publishes thousands of DNC emails

As if Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party needed any more fuss over emails, Wikileaks has published a trove of messages sent to and from top DNC officials. It covers a period from January of last year to May of 2016, and appear to show party officials spreading negative angles about Bernie Sanders, dreaming up fake Craigslist ads to target Donald Trump and constantly sharing "off the record" details with reporters. The source of the leak is apparently the hacker calling themselves "Guccifer 2," although claims by the DNC itself, Motherboard and the Washington Post point to Russian government hackers, and Wikileaks has not identified a source.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/wikileaks-publishes-thousands-of-dnc-emails/

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Deconstructing the legendary dungeons of ‘Ocarina of Time’

In the video above, he breaks down how Ocarina's nine temples are structured in terms of flow and design, noting just how linear they are compared to A Link to the Past (another fan favorite in the series) and whether or not that actually works to the game's advantage. And yep, a healthy portion of the video is dedicated to Ocarina's devious water temple. The video is part of a larger series examining the franchise on a game-by-game basis, so, if you like what you see, maybe throw a subscription Brown's way.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/ocarina-of-time-dungeon-video/

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The Public Access Weekly: Video killed the radio star

Looking for something to read? Check out:

If you are one of the many people who spent their childhoods blowing into NES cartridges so you could beat your little brother's Super Mario scores, then the announcement of a Nintendo Classic Mini with 30 games including The Legend of Zelda is probably music to your 8-bit loving ears.

In "It sounded like a good idea at the time" news, NYC Mayor Cuomo announced a five year plan to outfit the city's subway system with WiFI and USB charging ports. Which... doesn't sound at all like a security nightmare. Or a tempting target for vandals. Or an addition that will make it harder to clean subway cars.

If you have an excessive amount of music, games, and 4K video laying around then Seagate has a solution for you via its recently unveiled 10TB hard drive. That is, if you also have $535 laying around to purchase the drive. Commenters are skeptical about putting all their digital data into one hard drive basket, even if it could store roughly 20 million photos, nearly 2 million songs or over 85 million Word documents.

Looking for something to write about? Mull over:

We covered the Keecoo K1, a smartphone designed for women, and called it out for being sexist and technically lacking. A lot of people felt otherwise in the comments. Weigh in: Are 'women-only' products sexist and demeaning? Do they lack the technical specs you'd expect to find in a product? Are we making too damn much out of this? Share your thoughts in a post, using a few examples of such products to support your argument.

There have been some pretty sizable kerfuffles over ethics in gaming journalism, and Warner Bros. paying YouTubers for reviews is not going to help much on that front. The company recently settled with the FTC over paying online influencers, including PewDiePie, for positive YouTube reviews of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. How do you feel about paid content? How do you feel it should be disclosed or highlighted from non-paid content? And how do you, as a savvy internet user, sniff out paid content from the rest?

The Xbox Design Lab allows users to customize their own gamepad by selecting from 15 colors for the controllers body, bumpers and triggers, D-pad, thumbsticks, face, buttons and back panel. Is this just another gimmick like the Moto Maker? Would you pay extra to be able to design your own gamepad? What kind of modularity would really benefit a controller? Bonus: If you have designed a gamepad using the Design Lab, share your creation in your post!

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/the-public-access-weekly-video-killed-the-radio-star

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Xenon detector finds no dark matter after 20-month study

The scientists, who ran the experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, presented their results yesterday at the International Dark Matter conference in Sheffield, UK. While it's possible that the LUX failed to pick up dark matter while it was active from 2014 to 2016, the researchers are confident that any of it passing through would have been caught. Already the most sensitive detector of the substance during its first run in 2013, the LUX team pushed its performance to four times its original project goals.

As its title implies, the core of the LUX detector is xenon one-third of a ton of it, cooled to a liquid state and isolated from other interactions by keeping it deep underground and encased in a 72,000-gallon tank of water. The idea was that the leading theoretical candidate for dark matter, weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPs), pass through our bodies all the time but don't react. But if they collide with xenon atoms, they would theoretically produce small flashes of lightning, which external sensors would catch. Alas, no interactions were recorded in the detector's 20-month run.

Despite that setback, the project's scientists haven't scrapped the WIMP idea: the long-run experiment just eliminated a large swath of mass-ranges and interaction-coupling strengths where the particles might exist, the team said in a statement. Unfortunately, this may leave the door wide open for the Large Hadron Collider to be the first to observe dark matter in its experiments later in 2016, which the LUX team had been racing for three years.

Should CERN's colossal atom smasher not achieve it either, the next generation of xenon detectors will be the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment, which will have ten tons of the element and expect to achieve 70 times the sensitivity of the original LUX. The more advanced model is expected to be ready for its own dark matter search in 2020.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/xenon-detector-finds-no-dark-matter-after-20-month-study/

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‘Sonic Mania’ looks like the 2D sequel fans deserve

From the trailer below, Mania looks unapologetically old school, replete with chiptune music and the series' trademark hyper-colorful pixel-art style. Three playable characters are on tap (Sonic, Tails and Knuckles) and in addition to a new move like the drop dash and new levels, Mania will apparently put a couple of twists on old stages as well. The only problem is that despite Sonic's expediency, Mania will be late to the series' anniversary party with its "spring 2017" release window.

But hey, with how the more recent games have turned out, fans would probably rather that developers Christian Whitehead -- who has worked on ports and remasters of the franchise in the past -- and Headcannon, along with PagodaWest Games, take their time to get it right.

Update: And for a more modern take, Sonic Team just announced it's working on 'Project Sonic 2017.'

Update two: The PlayStation Blog has a few additional details. Sonic Mania will "reimagine" zones from Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Sonic CD and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles. It'll be digitally distributed, available on PlayStation 4 (at the very least) and have new zones, acts and bosses.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/sonic-mania-whoa-this-looks-good/

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Paramount signs up to release more movies with DTS:X audio

DTS says a number of home theater manufacturers (Denon, Marantz, Sony, Trinnov and Yamaha) have added support for the format recently via firmware updates, while others (Acurus, Anthem, ARCAM, Integra, Krell, McIntosh, Onkyo, Outlaw Audio, Pioneer, Steinway Lyngdorf and Theta Digital/AT) have updates coming later this year. Of course, if you prefer to skip the discs and receivers, DTS and Paramount also mention that "select" titles will be available with DTS Headphone: X soundtracks on streaming.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/paramount-dts-x/

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Celeb hacker who stole nude images gets six months in prison

Ryan Collins, a Pennsylvania native, also admitted that he phished celebrities and stole explicit images earlier this year. The images he pilfered, including those of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, were the ones that were distributed online. Helton's case preceded Collins' -- he was arrested back in 2013 -- and authorities believe his collection was at least never made public.

While Christensen fought for a year-long sentence, Helton's lawyer said his client shouldn't be sent to prison at all. He argued that the defendant was suffering from a mental illness during the time of the incident and only used the most basic phishing technique. Helton sent out emails that looked like they were from Apple and Google, asking the victims to verify their accounts by clicking on a link that led to a fake website. "There was no expertise involved. All I did was essentially copy and paste," the defendant said, serving as a reminder that we really should pay more attention to the links we click.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/22/celeb-photo-hacker-six-months-prison/

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‘Project Sonic 2017′ is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo NX

While fans will celebrate the series' 25th anniversary with a 2D throwback game in Sonic Mania, the Sonic Team (Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations) is working on something new. Tonight Sega dropped this teaser trailer for "Project Sonic," which is due for the 2017 holiday season on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's NX. Everything in the trailer is CG, but it does indicate that we can expect both a "Modern" and "Classic" Sonic to make an appearance.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/07/23/project-sonic-2017/

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