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Google reveals budget Chromebooks including a $249 ASUS convertible

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for some new Chromebooks. Yep, Google has just announced four new Chrome OS laptops, all of which lean toward the budget-friendly end of the spectrum. They are the ASUS Chromebook Flip, the ASUS Chromebook C201, the Hisense Chromebook and the Haier Chromebook 11 (This also comes in an educational version dubbed the 11e). Though it's the priciest model at $249, the most notable one by far is ASUS' Chromebook Flip. Not only is it the slimmest of the bunch with a thickness of only 15mm, it has a 10.1-inch touchscreen IPS display that can be flipped (hence the name) 360 degrees around.

ASUS Chromebook Flip

I didn't have much time to get a real feel for the Flip, but it does remind me a lot of ASUS' other flipping laptop, the ASUS Transformer Book Flip. The Chromebook flip is very lightweight at less than two pounds and I was able to hold it with one hand quite easily. Thanks to an internal accelerometer, the screen orientation changes depending on how the laptop is positioned -- as you can see in the image here, it's rotated 180-degrees when in the upside-down teepee formation. In this converted state, the software in the Chromebook Flip is smart enough to bring up touch-centric controls like a virtual keyboard and handwriting recognition whenever you tap an empty text field. Flip it around to regular laptop mode, however, and these extra modes will disappear, as it recognizes that you now have a full keyboard at your disposal.

Hisense Chromebook

The Haier and the Hisense laptops, on the other hand, are decidedly less glamorous. Instead of a sleek all-metal frame, the Haier and the Hisense models are clad in utilitarian black plastic. Still, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Hisense in particular has a pleasant pebbled texture that contributes to a firmer grip and I quite like the feel of the metal palm rest. They both have almost the same dimensions -- the Hisense is 11.7 by 8.8 by 0.6 inches and weighs about 3.3 pounds while the Haier is a touch smaller at 11.4 by 8.1 by 0.71 inches and 2.54 pounds. Both have 11.6-inch screens with 1366x768 resolution and 200 nits of brightness. I wasn't too impressed with what I saw of the displays -- the colors seem washed out and rather lackluster -- but for low-end budget models, they're perfectly functional.

Haier Chromebook 11 and 11e

I was also a fan of the Haier 11e educational Chromebook. It's a lot more durable against everyday wear and tear and is water- and spill-resistant due to tiny drainage holes in the chassis. Unlike the regular Haier Chromebook 11, the 11e has a removable battery along with a built-in handle, presumably so kids can easily carry it from class to class. ASUS' Chromebook C201 is a bit of a mystery as I wasn't able to handle it myself, but Google tells us it has a 11.6-inch display and the internals are about the same as the rest.

ASUS Chromebook C201

As for those internals, well, all of the above Chromebooks come equipped with a Rockchip 3288 SoC with 2GB of RAM and 16GB flash memory (eMMC). They all also have 802.11 ac WiFi, a 720p HD front-facing camera, two USB 2.0 ports, a microSD card reader, Bluetooth 4.0 and an ARM Mali 760 quad core GPU. Battery life fluctuates from model to model -- the Flip promises up to 10 hours, the Hisense has 8.5, the Haier has 10 while the Chromebook C201 promises 13.

The main draw with all of these, of course, is price. The Flip will be available for $249, the C201 starts at $169, while both the Haier and the Hisense models will cost $149 each. The Flip should be out later this Spring, the C201 will be on Amazon in May, and both the Haier and Hisense models are avaiable for pre-order today. The Haier is available through Amazon while the Hisense can be purchased through Walmart.

ASUS Chromebook C201


Microsoft technology gives Seattle 5,000 times faster public WiFi

Techie culture-vultures aren't likely to encounter Vine upload fails anymore at Seattle's home to arts, culture and the Space Needle thanks to Microsoft. The city's biggest patron has installed a new WiFi service at the Seattle Center that uses new technology to blow away the previous system's speed and capacity. The installation is a pilot program for Microsoft Research's white space tech that harnesses long-range, wall-penetrating TV signals. Along with quadruple the access points, the tech gives the Seattle Center public WiFi speeds up to 5,000 times faster, letting you Skype, Vine and Meerkat to your heart's content.

The previous system supported basic browsing only and often didn't work at all with too many users online. Microsoft told the Ballard News-Tribune that "this technology can handle more than 25,000 users at a time," which should be a boon during concerts and other big events. The pilot is also part of a city-wide program to improve public WiFi, and Microsoft's white space tech "may be deploy(ed) to other neighborhoods in the city," according to Mayor Ed Murray. To use the tech, you just have to log on to the "Microsoft Wi-Fi Seattle Center" network, with a free app coming soon.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]


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Charter buys a cable company to make up for losing Time Warner

Charter lost out on its chance to snatch Time Warner Cable before Comcast made its move, so it's settling for the next best thing. The company just unveiled plans to acquire Bright House Networks, a cable provider that's mostly big in Florida, for about $10.4 billion. Reportedly, the move is about getting "strategic flexibility" and solidifying Charter's position as the second-largest cable company in the US. In other words, it wants to both improve its clout in relation to Comcast (even if the two don't have competing networks) and streamline its costs. That last part is important in an era where services like Netflix are diminishing the importance of conventional TV. If Charter can't have TWC, it can at least prepare for a future where it can't depend on expensive programming bundles to turn a profit.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke]


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MacBook Pro with Retina display review (13-inch, 2015)

Nope, it's not the new MacBook. That review will need to wait until next month. What we have here is the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. For all intents and purposes, it's the same one we last tested in late 2013, except for one important thing: It swaps out the old trackpad in favor of a pressure-sensitive "Force Touch" pad that responds differently depending on how hard you bear down on it. (A hard-press on the skip button in QuickTime, for instance, will let you fast-forward at warp speed.) In addition, the new MBP brings all the spec upgrades you'd expect in a system refresh, including faster SSDs, fresh graphics and Intel's latest Core processors. At $1,299-plus, it's priced the same as before, and since the design and Retina display haven't changed, you're likely to enjoy it as much as you did the last-gen model. I can't promise you'll love the new touchpad, though.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display review (13-inch, 2015)


The refreshed Retina display MacBook Pro brings faster performance and longer battery life, along with the same stunning screen and comfortable keyboard. This time around, though, Apple also traded in its already-best-in-class trackpad for a new, pressure-sensitive one. While it's almost as comfortable to use as its predecessor, we're not convinced these new touchpad tricks were worth making the switch. That said, the 13-inch Retina MBP remains one of the few laptops of this size that offers such long battery life and this kind of graphics clout.  

Hardware (but mostly the trackpad)

If you already own a recent MacBook Pro, or have even futzed around an Apple Store, then you know what to expect here. The new MBP, like so many before it, is constructed from a seamless block of machined aluminum, with springy, well-spaced keys and a crisp 2,560 x 1,600 display, framed by a thin, barely there bezel. As before, the machine measures a slim 0.71 inch thick, though Apple is listing the weight as slightly heavier this time around: 3.48 pounds, as opposed to 3.46. Big whoop.

Around the edges, you get the same selection of ports: two USB 3.0 connections, a full-sized HDMI socket, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, an SD card slot and a headphone jack. Nope, no USB Type-C ports like on the new MacBook -- at least not this time around.

Oh, and the aluminum lid and chassis are still scratch-prone. With that, I am done talking about the MacBook Pro's hardware.

Except for the new trackpad, of course. I have plenty more to say about that. For starters: What a risky thing for Apple to do, replacing the touchpad that's already the best in its class. Reviewers like it; users seem to like it. So what's the problem? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Right. Except for the fact that the Force Touch pad can do things the Mac regular trackpad can't. I already gave the example of pressing down on the skip keys in QuickTime to rewind or fast-forward at 60x speed. But there are other use cases: You can use the "Force Click" in Safari to get Wikipedia previews and word definitions. You can annotate in Mail and Preview. Speaking of Mail, you can Force Click on an address and see it in a pop-up map. You can also use it in Finder to preview files. And those are just built-in Mac apps; developers can build this feature into third-party apps as well.

Before I get into the utility of all this, though, allow me to take a step back and explain how this thing works. Though it's about as spacious as the one on the old model, the new Force Touch pad does away with the old-school "diving board" -- the hinge mechanism that makes it easier to press down on the bottom portion of a touchpad than on the top. In fact, the trackpad here doesn't have any buttons; there's nothing to depress when you bear down with your finger. Instead, Apple fools you into believing you're clicking something. How? With the use of a "Taptic Engine" -- a bunch of wires coiled around a magnetic core that provide vibrating haptic feedback to match whatever you're doing onscreen. It's so convincing, in fact, that I would sometimes forget it wasn't a normal trackpad -- until I turned the machine off, anyway, and was left with a stiff piece of glass.

That said, these "button presses" don't feel like using a touchpad on other MacBooks. If you're coming from an older model, as I am, you'll notice the new trackpad feels shallower; even though Apple makes it feel like you're clicking something, your finger isn't "pressing down" as far as it normally would. This was an adjustment for me, but I found a few ways to get past it. First off, I turned on the "tap-to-click" option in the settings, which helped me avoid "clicking" when it initially felt too weird. (To be fair, I always have tap-to-click enabled on my own Mac, so this didn't feel like much of a workaround for me.) Secondly, there's also an option in the settings to adjust the click pressure. Moving it from "medium" (the default) to "light" also helped soften the learning curve.

Mostly, though, it just took time. After two days with the Force Touch pad, I was more or less used to it. Heck, if I weren't switching back and forth between the new Pro and my own MacBook Air, I might have adjusted even sooner.

But back to my original question: Was this all worth it? Do the benefits of a pressure-sensitive touchpad outweigh the inconvenience of taking away the one people are used to? I'm not convinced they do. In Safari, at least, the novelty wore off quickly, particularly since it often took me several tries to get it right. Sure, it's cool to be able to Force Click on a word and be able to see a dictionary definition or a Wikipedia preview, but because I never fully got the hang of the gesture, it was far easier to just open a new browser tab and do a quick Google search. In that respect, the Force Touch pad didn't change my habits. Same with Finder: When you Force Click on a thumbnail to preview it, the actual "preview" is still too small to really get a good look at what's in there. I'd still prefer to use a keyboard shortcut: hitting the space bar to open a much larger preview.

I did enjoy the super-fast fast-forwarding, though. For me, at least, that might be the best and most practical reason to have a pressure-sensitive trackpad. Even so, the Force Touch feels like just another nice-to-have feature; I don't mind that it's there, and I ultimately got used to it, but it's also not something I particularly needed. It's certainly not essential on the level of the Retina display, which basically spoiled the lower-res MacBook Air screen for me and many other users. Every Mac should have a Retina panel; the Force Touch trackpad I can take or leave at this point.

Performance and battery life

The refreshed MacBook Pro arrives not long after Intel started shipping its fifth-generation Core processors, code-named "Broadwell." As you'd expect, then, the Pro comes with your choice of new Core i5 and i7 chips, though only dual-core for now, as Intel hasn't released its quad-core Broadwell processors yet. Also not surprising: The performance boost is in many ways a fairly modest one. When Intel first announced these chips, it said we should only expect a 4 percent gain in productivity-oriented tasks. So it makes sense, then, that the MacBook Pro's results in general-performance benchmarks are only marginally better than they were a year and a half ago. Armed with a 2.7GHz Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, I saw less than a 100-point difference in tests like Geekbench and Xbench.

That said, Broadwell promises some bigger gains in graphics -- after all, a whole two-thirds of the die area is dedicated to graphics. In particular, according to Intel, Broadwell machines should deliver a 22 percent improvement in 3D graphics benchmarks, and up to 50 percent faster video-conversion time. And the new MacBook Pro actually does most Broadwell machines one better: As before, it uses the chip maker's high-end "Iris" solution, instead of the usual Intel HD graphics. Given that the MBP is mainly intended for prosumers and creative pros, I decided to test the Iris 6100 graphics by loading up Final Cut Pro with a handful of 4K clips. Aside from one dropped frame -- brought on by trying to add a transition -- video playback was smooth. In fact, I was usually able to add effects in real time without causing any hiccups or slowdowns.

In gaming, meanwhile, I saw a slight bump in Batman: Arkham City (the same game I used to test the late 2013 model), with frame rates rising from 32 fps to 33. Not really surprising, that: The Pro was never intended as a gaming machine, per se.

Even more than the new processor, though, the biggest improvement might be disk speeds. Though the Retina display MacBook Pro has had PCIe-based SSDs (which are faster than mSATA ones) for about a year and a half now, Apple says the PCIe drives used in the latest MBP are twice as fast as the first PCIe SSDs used. Specifically, the company says its new disks can reach peak read speeds of 1.6 GB/s and max sequential write speeds of 1.5 GB/s. Indeed, in the Blackmagic disk test I got average read speeds of 1.3 GB/s, nearly matching the promised rate, although my write speeds came to an average of 643.6 MB/s. That's still higher than just about any other 13-inch laptop I've tested recently; I just couldn't reach those theoretical speeds of one and a half gigabytes per second. In real-world use, this translates to snappy performance, affecting everything from app load times to cold boot-ups (I recorded 13 seconds to get to the login screen).

Apple says the new 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro is capable of up to 10 hours of web browsing, or up to 12 hours of iTunes video playback. Sure enough, I logged 11 hours and 23 minutes in Engadget's video looping test, using an episode of Breaking Bad I purchased through iTunes. That does indeed match Apple's own estimate, and I suspect I could have actually broken the 12-hour mark had I not chosen such punishing battery settings. (As I do when I test Windows PCs, I kept the MacBook Pro from going to sleep or dimming its display when unplugged.) And hey, even 11.5 hours is impressive for a machine in this class -- the only other system I've seen recently that matches that is HP's Spectre x360.

Still, I was surprised the battery didn't last even longer. First off, though the machine meets Apple's estimates, the Macs I've tested usually exceed expectations -- that's why the late 2013 model, which was rated for nine hours of runtime, actually clocked more than 11 hours. That brings me to point number two: The battery life here more or less matches what I got a year and a half ago. Also, to even achieve flat year-over-year battery life, I had to stick with iTunes; when I played movies through QuickTime and/or used a file I downloaded from somewhere else, the battery life was up to an hour shorter. To be fair, even Intel warned that battery life gains with Broadwell would be fairly modest over last year's processors, but still, I did expect more of an improvement. For the record, at least, other reviewers have noted bigger gains; I'm just not sure why I wasn't able to replicate their test results. I'll continue running some tests and will update this review if anything changes.

Configuration options

The 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 with a 2.7GHz fifth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Intel Iris Graphics 6100, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB PCIe-based solid-state drive. From there, you can upgrade to a slightly faster 2.9GHz Core i5 processor for an extra $100, or a 3.1GHz Core i7 CPU for $300. You can also double the RAM to 16GB for $200. Want more storage? Apple also sells a 256GB model ($1,499) and one with a 512GB SSD ($1,799). In the case of the $1,499 model, it has the same specs as the $1,299 variant, just with more storage. If you spring for the $1,799 model with 512GB of storage, though, you'll also get that slightly faster 2.9GHz processor. There's also a $500 1TB SSD option, but it's only offered as an upsell on the $1,799 model.

One thing you won't find on the 13-inch Retina MBP: a discrete graphics option. That's only available on the 15-inch model, and even then, it'll cost you at least $2,499.

The competition

Mac diehards who want a laptop with decent graphics really only have one option: the Retina display MacBook Pro. For those of you who are more OS agnostic, though, you have a few other good PC options. Most don't have quite the same graphics clout as the 13-inch Retina MBP, but they do at least offer similarly sharp screens, premium build quality and long battery life. My personal favorites: the Dell XPS 13 ($800-plus) and HP Spectre x360 ($900-plus). Starting with the Dell, it weighs 2.6 pounds and has a nearly bezel-less (up to 3,200 x 1,800) display that allows it to have a much smaller footprint than a typical 13-inch laptop. All told, it earned a score of 90 in our review, thanks not just to the compact design and crisp screen, but also a comfortable keyboard, fast performance and surprisingly good audio. My only real pet peeve may have been the occasionally temperamental touchpad.

As for the Spectre, it has a 2,560 x 1,440 screen option and a machined aluminum build that some might say was inspired by the MacBook itself. I haven't published my review yet (working on it!), but I can tell you now, the battery life is impressive: about 11.5 hours of video playback in my tests. It's also lighter than the MacBook Pro, with the weight ranging from 3.17 to 3.26 pounds, depending on the configuration. Again, still polishing off my review, but I think it's safe to say this is a solid option if you're looking for a premium, high-performing 13-inch machine.

If, in the end, you find graphics don't matter that much -- and that you can maybe even live without the sharp screen -- Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air is cheaper, at $999. It's also lighter with longer battery life. And it has the old touchpad too, if that's what you prefer, but again, you'd be giving up that sharp screen to get it. Decisions, decisions...


The refreshed Retina display MacBook Pro is mostly an incremental improvement over the previous model, with even faster disk speeds and stronger graphics, along with the same comfortable keyboard, slim design, long battery life and stunning screen. The only area where the MBP represents a possible step backward is the touchpad. To Apple's credit, the pressure-sensitive Force Touch pad is interesting, and has the potential to become more useful as third-party developers start to incorporate the "Force Click" into their own apps. In fact, I'm still curious to see what a potential Force Touch iPhone might look like; perhaps the tech would make more sense there, where having pressure sensitivity doesn't mean forfeiting a best-in-class trackpad. Right now, though, Force Touch feels like a solution to a problem I'm not sure anyone had. At worst, it's a gimmick; at best, it's a nice-to-have feature. Either way, although the new touchpad doesn't feel quite the same as the ol' "diving board," you should at least get used to it quickly.

In the end, too, despite its flaws (the shallower touchpad, the continued lack of a discrete graphics option), the 13-inch Retina display stands as one of the only laptops of this size that offers this level of portability, screen quality and graphics power, not to mention this nice a screen. If you need a lightweight machine with enough processing clout for a little 4K video editing, this is still one of your best bets.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display (mid 2014)

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/31/macbook-pro-with-retina-display-review-13-inch-2015/?ncid=rss_truncated

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JXE Streams: Boldly exploring space in ‘Sid Meier’s Starships’

Sid Meier scares the crap out of me. I'm deeply familiar with the famed strategy game creator's resume -- from the history-spanning Civilization series to the high seas simulations in Sid Meier's Pirates! -- but I've only ever played one of his games. The reason I never picked another up after trying Civilization III is that once I started playing I didn't stop for about 36 hours. The man makes a deeply cerebral game but also a deeply addictive one. Let it never be said that I won't try things twice, though! Today on JXE Streams, I'll give into the allure of deep space exploration and play Sid Meier's Starships.

Starting at 3PM ET on Engadget.com/gaming, Twitch.tv/Joystiq and right here in this post, you can watch two solid hours of spaceship management and travel amongst the stars. If you've ever wondered what it looks like to watch people fall into a deep well of strategy game mechanics live, now's your chance.

Bookmark Engadget.com/gaming to check out upcoming stream schedule and follow us on Twitch to know whenever we go live.

[We're playing Sid Meier's Starships on PC streamed at 720p.]


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Patent reveals GoPro’s working on a ‘square profile’ camera design

GoPro doesn't make square, cube-like cameras, but if it did, the picture (after the break) is probably what they'd look like. The image comes from a patent granted to GoPro today. The protection covers a "Camera housing for a square-profile camera," rather than a camera itself (makers of square cameras, your time to check is now). Sifting through the claims, the patent mentions how the square housing would allow a camera to be mounted in numerous orientations (thanks, geometry!) regardless of how you mount it. There are identical openings on three of the sides also, to provide access to ports (like you can with the current "Frame" mount) in any orientation.

The camera in the drawings is for illustration purposes only, but shows a cube-shaped GoPro with a single button on top and a small, thin display beneath it. The patent also mentions dimensions between two to nine centimeters per side, giving a pretty broad scope of potential sizes. Most importantly, the housing part carries GoPro's proprietary three-pin connector, meaning it'd still be compatible with a great number of existing accessories.

A GoPro spokesperson made it clear to Engadget that there are no product announcements to be made at this time. However, the company did say its engineers conceptualized and began working on a square camera design in 2011. Today's patent grant would now protect the housing for any product that it had been working on since the original filing. That's plenty enough time to design a smaller, square camera for sure.

This is a crucial time for GoPro. The company went public last summer, and since then has faced ever increasing competition from both high end (Sony) and budget (Xiaomi) cameras. To stay ahead, GoPro has diversified into professional live broadcasting, and moved deeper into sports coverage, but cameras are still its main bread winner.


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Flickr gives you the choice to put photos in the public domain

Flickr has long had ways to let others use and tweak your photos, but if you want to give up your copyright altogether? You can now do just that. In the wake of Elon Musk releasing SpaceX's photos to public domain, Flickr has added options for public domain and Creative Commons 0 ("no rights reserved") licenses. Choose them and others can do whatever they want with your images, free of charge or even credit. If you see your photography as more of a service for the greater good than a closely guarded treasure, you can loosen the restrictions today.

[Image credit: SpaceX, Flickr]


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Buy an LG G3 in the US, get a free VR headset

LG's new mobile VR headset -- which is basically just a plastic version of Google's cardboard VR viewer -- is finally hitting American shores. The company just announced that it'll be throwing in a free headset, simply called the VR for G3, with the purchase of its latest flagship Android phone at participating retailers. Since it's adopting the Google Cardboard platform, which is just a box that you can plug your smartphone in for simple VR experiences, there really isn't much to LG's offering. You just need to slide in a G3 unit and load up a VR app (LG will also link users to some VR gaming content). It also features a magnet that works together with the phone's gyroscope (again, just like Google's box), that lets you select things without interacting with the screen. Unfortunately, it's still unclear how existing G3 owners can get their hands on LG's VR headset (we've dropped a line for additional details).

It may seem a tad gimmicky, but a cheap VR headset will allow consumers to get a taste of the virtual reality experience without shelling out for an expensive accessory like Samsung's $200 Gear VR. And while it certainly won't compare with complex VR tech from Oculus, HTC and Valve, the VR for G3 is a reminder how small the barrier to entry for VR is getting.


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Apple opens the floodgates to Watch-friendly apps

You may have noticed a few Apple Watch-friendly iOS apps trickle out, but brace yourself: you're about to face a torrent of them. Apple has opened up WatchKit app submissions to all developers (not just the handful of early partners from before), so anyone who has been toiling over wristwear-ready software in the past few months can finally put it on your iPhone. Given that the Apple Watch release is still three weeks away, this suggests that the App Store will be well-stocked on day one.

Apple Watch

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    Apple finally introduces the Apple Watch, and the iPhones get bigger. What do you think?

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    Smartwatch: what should it do beyond a Pebble?

Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/03/31/apple-opens-watch-app-submissions/?ncid=rss_truncated

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‘Un Chien Andalou’ inspires a surreal indie game from Russian devs

In 1929, famed artist Salvador Dalí and filmmaker Luis Buñuel awoke from a night of strange dreams, Buñuel recalling the image of a razorblade cloud slicing through the moon as if it were an eyeball, and Dalí describing a human hand covered in ants. They turned these images into a silent, surrealist short film called Un Chien Andalou, which opens on a woman with one eye held open, a cloud cutting across the moon and a blade slicing through the eye of a dead calf. The hand, crawling with ants, also makes an appearance. The film has no plot, but it's rife with emotive and disturbing imagery.

Cut to 2014, when Russian game developers Ilya Kononenko and Yuliya Kozhemyako decided the first scene of Un Chien Andalou would make the perfect setting for their entry in a local game jam with the theme "Phobias." Their completed game is now due out on April 3rd, called The Tender Cut.

The Tender Cut

"We want players to dive into a surrealistic dream, where emotions overlap each other -- disgust and arousal, fear and curiosity," Kononenko and Kozhemyako say in an email. "The game contains a set of tiny experiences, and everyone has a chance to get at least one of them."

Like its source material, The Tender Cut doesn't provide a clear path forward. There are no instructions and the game takes place in a sparsely furnished, black-and-white room. It's first-person, allowing players to directly interact with various objects, including a tube TV set playing bits of Un Chien Andalou, a cigarette, a lighter, a razor and a few crooked paintings hiding creepy secrets. The moon beyond the balcony winks down on a potted plant that has something other than roots buried in its soil.

Kononenko and Kozhemyako say The Tender Cut is a game, though just barely. It's short -- roughly 20 minutes long -- and early in development they called it an "interactive installation." Now, it's an exploration game, even though there are no "right" actions and only a vague sense of winning or losing. After observing the confusion of beta players, the developers added two different endings, new cursors and some achievements to make it more approachable as a game.

"An interactive format makes you an actor instead of viewer," they say. "It makes it possible to experience the scene from the other side and get another emotional message."

"We want players to dive into a surrealistic dream, where emotions overlap each other -- disgust and arousal, fear and curiosity."

Kononenko and Kozhemyako are interested in the "almost-game" industry, pieces of interactive software that straddle the definitions of "art," "experiences" and "video games." In November, they (as their studio, No, Thanks) helped form the Not-Games segment of NextCastle Party, a gaming festival in St. Petersburg. Kononenko and Kozhemyako say that Russia's indie game industry is on the rise, driven by support from experienced developers, large events and local game jams. Many fresh developers started their own projects last year, they say:

"And this is not about industry in Russia separately, it's more about [the Russian-speaking] industry. A lot of events are based in Kiev and Minsk; we have many friends and colleagues from Ukraine and Belarus. There are strong communities in Twitter and other media resources. It is not so good with game journalism here. There are some major titles which write about mainstream games, but more specific products are not covered well enough."

Art-house games about classic, creepy, surrealist films do indeed inhabit a specific category. The Tender Cut will be available for download on April 3rd via its official site; feel free to take a few days to mentally prepare.


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