Sifteo, makers of Siftables, the ingenious cookie-sized computer blocks that play together in infinitely interesting ways, has today officially gone from MIT Media Lab research project to actual company. They're now open for business, but you'll have to wait a bit longer to actually get your hands on some. Nonetheless, we're excited.
Deep in Microsoft's lairs, the Xbox 360 team is working on more than just a new video-game system. They're actually trying to solve an incredibly difficult problem in artificial intelligence. Their prototype Project Natal lets you control a game just with your body movements—no buttons or Wii-like wands—by watching you with a 3-D video camera. Sounds simple enough, but most cameras just snap images without having any idea what they're looking at. To make Natal work, Microsoft has to teach its camera to understand what it sees.
Here at CES, Microsoft announced last night that Natal will go on sale "by the holidays." Before the show, we were given an exclusive look at the smarts that make Natal tick.
Imagine playing a frantic session of the video game Modern Warfare 2 in the virtual ruins of suburban USA, and suddenly seeing a scrolling message that announces a real manmade or natural disaster appear on the TV. Such a meta-experience may soon arrive via your Xbox, PlayStation or Wii, because New York State officials have begun testing a plan for emergency alert broadcasts over online gaming networks.
Citizen scientists and bored netizens can now help NASA map out the Martian surface for future astronaut explorers. Even kids can enjoy the thrills of Mars cartography -- namely counting craters and aligning higher-resolution images on top of a low-res map.
The U.S. space agency teamed up with Microsoft to create the online games at a newly launched website. Players can rack up reputation points for a robotic animal avatar by placing three images at a time on a Martian map, starting with the Valles Marineris canyon.
People who hate creepy kids and Halloween aren't out of the woods yet. A new Wii-exclusive Baby and Me arrives just in time for the holiday season, so that every Nintendo-loving household can stick a wiimote in an anatomically correct doll's back to rock it lovingly via accelerometer and hear its gurgles, giggles and wails through a tinny Wiimote speaker.
Starting next month, British citizens will be given the chance to watch a number of the country's closed-circuit security cameras in hopes of catching a crime and winning up to £1,000 as a reward. The "game," run by the website InternetEyes.co.uk, lets participants log in online, alerting officials in real time via SMS and/or email.
Games have long played a role in classrooms, but next month marks the launch of the first U.S. public school curriculum based entirely on game-inspired learning. Select sixth graders can look forward to playing video games such as "Little Big Planet" and "Civilization," as well as non-digital games ranging from role-playing scenarios to board games and card games.
But this goes beyond guiding your virtual settlers in "Oregon Trail" during classroom free time. The Quest to Learn (Q2L) school, based in Manhattan, hopes its guided approach can help students take on the role of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers and evolutionary biologists.
When first-person-shooter video games first hit the market, the computer-controlled bot characters that were deployed in multiplayer matches to fill out the ranks ran around like the Keystone Cops. Now, the bots do a bit better, but not nearly good enough for the people behind the BotPrize.