Tag Archives: Toys

New Mac Pros, Minis due this summer

Apple is getting ready to unveil new Mac Pros and Mac Minis with more Intel hardware inside, sources tell my colleague Brian Tong.

The new computers will be powered by Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor architecture and will ship by the beginning of August, the sources say. The gadgets will also feature Thunderbolt data ports, Intel’s high-speed connector technology, and Mac OS X Lion, the source said.

It’s unknown whether cosmetic changes are in the works, and no other information about specifications or configurations was available.

The update would be in keeping with changes Apple made its line of iMacs in May, when it added Intel’s second-generation quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs (former code-named Sandy Bridge) as well as Thunderbolt data ports. They also match updates Apple made to the MacBook Pro line earlier this year.

Thunderbolt debuted with the updated MacBook Pros and offers a new, bidirectional data port designed to simplify external device connections to laptop and desktop computers. The standard supports both data and video throughput simultaneously with the appropriate connectors.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20072462-37/new-mac-pros-minis-due-this-summer/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

For fifth birthday, Cirque reveals more ‘Love’ secrets

Dancing and audio visual technology merge during the “Something” number in Cirque du Soleil’s “Love.”

(Credit:
Cirque du Soleil)

LAS VEGAS–“Love,” Cirque du Soleil’s successful celebration of The Beatles, is five years old this month.

Now that the show has reached this milestone, Cirque du Soleil is willing to unveil more of its secrets. Last week, Leu Strope, operations production manager for “Love,” served up an all-access, stat-soaked, guided tour of the show’s backstage world now it’s had five years to settle and grow into its surroundings. “Love” is the only Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil show performed in the round, and the three-level theater seats 2,013 visitors, all within 98 feet of the stage. The space has four control booths positioned in four separate corners (controlling lighting, projection, stage management, and automation, respectively). A total of 276 separate production cues flow back and forth between the booths as the show comes together.

Four automated tracks built into the stage carry artists and smaller stage pieces out into the show. The theater has 10 12,000-lumen projectors for each of two 2,000-square-foot panoramic screens wrapping around the space. Four 832-square-foot semi-transparent screens move in and out of the space, thanks to eight motors. They’re illuminated by four 16,000-lumen projectors offering images of The Beatles and their music.

Backstage birthday glimpse at Cirque’s ‘Love’ (photos)






The most impressive machinery powering “Love” from behind the scenes resides under the stage. Nine stage lifts raise and lower artists and set elements in and out of the performance space. The largest motor-driven rack-and-pinion lift raises a center stage segment weighing about 22,000 pounds. Engineers dug 32 feet down into the desert ground to install it; it provides a force of 150 pounds per square foot and can raise the huge stage at a speed of a foot per second.

All Cirque productions stress that the safety of the artists and crew is the primary concern. To that end, the larger set elements are monitored by a specially designed encoder system that confirms that the moving piece is precisely where it needs to be when it needs to be there. If anything onstage strays by so much as millimeters, the movement cuts out and the show stops.

If a less serious problem arises in the show, the crew has invented a secret code to alert the cast and staff.

“If you see the show, and you hear the classic Beatles line–the repeated chant of ‘number nine, number nine,’ that’s the code that something needs to be corrected,” Strope said. “Whatever the technical problem is is fixed as the show continues. But we have to stop the show if any element goes out of position. Safety is everything for Cirque du Soleil, no matter what show you’re seeing.”

In the rafters grid 87 feet above the stage and the audience, eight automated tracks and trolleys run from one end of the theater space to the other. They can simultaneously move 24 props, set elements, or performers and provide the production with 140 different ways to send a performer into the air. The trolley system is dexterous enough to act as a massive puppeteer of huge paper creations during the show’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” number.

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The theater also utilities a ventilation system that can alter the temperature, density, and even the scent within the space. For example, during the Eastern meditation-themed “Here Comes the Sun” segment, the theater smells of flowers and faint incense. During the show, artists use a fiberglass piano filled with a soapy solution to send huge dancing bubbles around the theater. The designers quickly realized the dry desert air of Las Vegas was unfriendly to soap bubbles, so the ventilation system controls the density and airflow in the theater to make the dance possible.

Amid all of this movement and technology, Strope revealed a special secret during the tour. Near the sound-mixing offices backstage, an elevated, black-walled vault sits tucked away–a chamber hiding in plain sight. If Strope didn’t point it out, no one would ever see it. But it’s one of only two places on Earth where every Beatles track is housed.

“The original tapes are still stored at Apple Records in the U.K.,” Strope said. “But when George Martin and his son did the remix for the show, the trackers were carefully digitized for mixing. We have the direct digital versions of every track stored here. The vault is climate-controlled and has a waterless fire suppression system. Only a few of us can get access to that room.”

As the tour wrapped up, the most surreal aspect of this backstage world became clear. When the tour concludes, the backstage exit opens out onto the casino floor. You step from the world of “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Day in the Life” out into the neon-lit world of hard-core Vegas. The massive “Love” stage and all of the engineering behind it hides behind the casino facade, providing a musical escape from the hyperactive hedonism around it.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20072093-1/for-fifth-birthday-cirque-reveals-more-love-secrets/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

Tactus touch screen sprouts keys and buttons

Pneumatic touch-screen controls really pop out at you.

(Credit:
Video screenshot by Eric Smalley/CNET)

We’ve gotten used to touch screens always being flat. Get ready for that to change.

Silicon Valley start-up Tactus Technology has designed a touch screen that grows 3D buttons and knobs where and when you want them.

Smartphones,
tablets, game consoles, and kiosks equipped with the technology would sprout physical controls like QWERTY keyboards and knobs on demand. The controls would recede into the touch screen surface after they’ve served their purpose.

3D controls are often easier to maneuver than today’s flat touch-screen controls, as you can use them without looking. Getting the best of both worlds means marrying physical controls’ higher accuracy and ease of use with touch screens’ elegance, simplicity, and dynamic nature. The physical cues are especially important for people who can’t see well or who have trouble with fine hand movements. They also make it easier to control your cell phone when it’s in your pocket.

The trick to making a morphing touch screen useful is fitting it in a smartphone. The Tactus design calls for sandwiching a fluid between touch-screen layers and pushing the fluid around with a series of tiny valves. The top layer is flexible, so pushing the fluid to one part of the screen raises the surface there.

Tactus Technology isn’t the only game in town when it comes to this concept. Carnegie Mellon University researcher Chris Harrison recently developed a similar screen using air rather than fluid. Check out the video below to see the CMU morphing touch screen in action.

Imagine the morphing touch-screen apps people will come up with. Instead of sounds and vibrations signaling a new message, you could have customizable pokes and prods.

Don’t look for buttons and keys to pop up from the screen of next year’s
iPhone, though. Morphing touch screens are still in the lab and probably years away from store shelves. Here’s hoping they see the light of day–or the darkness of your pocket as the case may be.

(Via Businessweek)

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20072117-1/tactus-touch-screen-sprouts-keys-and-buttons/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

Cirque du Soleil’s new ‘Iris’ blooms in Hollywood

Iris poster(Credit:
Cirque du Soleil)

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.–The cast of “Iris,” Cirque du Soleil’s new movie-themed show at the famed Kodak Theatre here, took the stage Thursday to preview the upcoming production’s mix of elite acrobatics, audio visual technology, and live music and dance for a select crew of press, corporate reps, and local government officials.

Cirque artists performed 20 minutes of the massive stage production–Cirque’s 27th to date–for the eager crowd. When “Iris” opens later this year, it will settle into the Kodak Theatre as a permanent attraction, stepping aside whenever the Academy Awards or other shows require the space.

After opening comments from Cirque executives, the audience enjoyed what could prove to be the opening of the finished production. Performers filled the stage in mini-vignettes highlighting the invention of cinema and the earliest days of Hollywood. A human kinescope danced amid aspiring starlets, blue-collar crew workers, silent film stars, and well-dressed executives.

Technological magic merged with the human elements. Independently animated and radio-controlled “creatures” like studio lights and cameras danced with their human counterparts. The opening number climaxed with an aerial act of two male rigging dancers literally flying about and bouncing off the walls of the Kodak Theatre.

Imagery captured during the invention of black-and-white moving pictures played in loops projected around the stage set against the backdrop of a soundtrack by film composer Danny Elfman. The final clip, a classic gangster mini-movie, gave way to Cirque’s high-tech visual trickery when its characters stepped “through” the screen and emerged onstage. A cops-and-robbers chase atop the rooftops of New York along a row of trampolines topped off the show.

The lighting for “Iris” relies on modern techniques of projecting imagery against translucent fabrics and periodically mixing stark light and shadows to transform the stage area into the illusion of a two-dimensional moving image. The exact tools being used are top secret and likely will remain so as the show rolls out, but the sheer size of the set pieces and the proliferation of technology hints at the massive amount of machinery hidden backstage.

While most of the production remains under wraps, the short demo already showed that the same massive, animated stage and set piece movements from former Cirque shows are once again in play. Using automated positioning systems, the set pieces for the large installed Cirque shows are monitored and will cease moving immediately if the piece is off by as little as millimeters. Such systems protect the Cirque performers, no matter how many tons a set piece weighs.

Written and directed by Philippe DeCoufle, the show opens in Hollywood on July 21 with tickets on sale now.

Iris cast

The cast of Cirque du Solieil’s new Hollywood show, Iris, gather onstage.

(Credit:
John Scott Lewinski/CNET)

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20071708-1/cirque-du-soleils-new-iris-blooms-in-hollywood/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D



(Credit:
Nintendo)

At the company’s E3 2011 press conference, Nintendo was overjoyed in celebrating 25 years of Zelda. About half that time ago came along a game called The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which is now widely regarded as the best game in Zelda franchise.

While the 3DS is still a relatively new platform, a 3D version of the classic title has been developed for redistribution, allowing for a whole new generation of gamers to experience the legendary title.

We’ve been playing Ocarina of Time 3D for well over a week now and here are our final thoughts.

Jeff:
The 3D remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time is a somewhat bittersweet example of Nintendo’s almost stubborn attitude towards the development of new titles. Yes, Ocarina of Time is arguably the best Zelda game ever, but we really wish Nintendo could give the 3DS the brand new 3D Zelda adventure it deserves. Sure, Ocarina of Time is almost 13 years old and we’d imagine a healthy chunk of 3DS owners did not get to experience the game when it was first released on the Nintendo 64.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (photos)






I experienced something totally unique when jumping back into Ocarina of Time 13 years since playing the N64 version. It’s been so long that I forgot some of the reasons why I feel in love with the original. For one, the game play and controls are ultra-precise and the sense of accomplishment in defeating bosses, solving puzzles, and understanding what to do next is as satisfying as ever.

These positives aside, there is looming feeling that you are playing a 13 year old game. While graphically the game holds up to most 3DS expectations, some aesthetics in place (while groundbreaking in their time) do feel a bit dated in 2011.



(Credit:
Nintendo)

So how does 3D factor in? I’d be lying if I said 3D makes all the difference here. In all honesty, it doesn’t. I’ve been playing OoT with the 3D slider off during my playthrough mostly because the “look” functionality requires the player to physically move the 3DS around. When the 3D slider is on, this motion almost always ruins the 3D effect.

It’s strange saying that a 13 year old 3D remake is the 3DS’ first must-play title, but for those who’ve yet to experience Ocarina of Time, the 3DS is a perfect vessel for doing so. If you’ve already played this classic there are few new graphical and 3D improvements, but for someone who has recently made it through, it’s probably wise to skip this one.

Scott:
I remember playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in graduate school, tucked in front of a small TV. At the time, its open 3D universe felt surprisingly vast. In the wake of dozens of three-dimensional worlds since 1998, the legendarily well-reviewed Ocarina of Time holds its own, although the challenges presented seem smaller, more contained. It’s perfect, then, that this newly-remastered version has been made for a smaller screen: in our gaming age, that’s where it feel like it belongs.

The 3DS has been desperate for games in its first three months of existence, so Zelda: OOT automatically rises up to the top of the AAA pile. Unfortunately, it’s also a game many have played before. If you haven’t, then lucky you: not only does this game suffer no compromises on the 3DS, but it’s arguably improved. Zelda’s first 3D foray holds up extremely well over the years, much like Mario 64 has. Not having a second analog stick on the 3DS doesn’t matter, because the N64 never had one either.



(Credit:
Nintendo)

So, the big question: how does 3D add to the equation? It’s not necessary, but 3D adds impressive depth-of-field to dungeons and vistas, helping make the tiny 3DS screen seem more panoramic and larger-than-life. You can always turn 3D off, of course, but I preferred playing 3D-on. Some new motion-based controls for slingshots and bows have been added, but they’re not necessary: I did without. Graphics are improved, too, nearly to the point where they’re
Wii-like.

Here’s the problem: Zelda: Ocarina of Time is so good, it makes you wonder why Nintendo isn’t making brand-new 3DS games this impressive or meaty. It’s a game good enough to spoil anyone into expecting more. The holidays, and Super Mario 3D, can’t come soon enough.

Article source: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20072056-1/the-legend-of-zelda-ocarina-of-time-3d/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave

New Yaris revealed in U.K.

2012 Toyota Yaris

Toyota released this photo of the next-generation Yaris in the U.K.

(Credit:
Toyota)

Toyota’s U.K. press site released two photos of a restyled Yaris, along with engine specs. The styling of this third-generation model should reflect the next version of the
car to be offered in the U.S.


2012 Toyota Yaris

The interior shows an LCD, part of the Toyota Touch Go system.

(Credit:
Toyota)

An exterior shot reveals a more sculpted car that, however, retains the same basic shape and size as the hatchback model. The front-end treatment comports better with Toyota’s newer styling language, featuring an almost vertically aligned front badge. The hood opening shows a curved cut instead of the straight line from the current generation.

A large intake on the front gives it a more aggressive look, and a strong side contour line seems to lead back to a traditional hatchback rear pillar.

In the U.K., the Yaris will be available with three engines: a 1-liter, a 1.33-liter featuring dual variable valve timing, and a 1.4-liter diesel.

An interior shot shows a navigation screen. The press release refers to it as Toyota Touch Go, with a 6.1-inch full-color touch screen. The interior photo shows a left-hand-drive car, suggesting that it is a picture of the next-generation European Yaris.

Article source: http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-20071814-48/new-yaris-revealed-in-u.k/?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Crave