Also: Motorola's wearable electronic tattoo, and noise-cancelling internet.
By Jason Imms on May 31, 2013 at 11:19 am
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is a weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of mirror-image Internet data transfers, Motorola’s prototype physical augmentations, and a whole bunch of Xbox One heehawing.
This week in Xbox One: Scandals, rumours, unverifiable sources, and a whole lot of hyperbole
Xbox One will be region locked, “Similar to the movie and music industry, games must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We will continue to work with our partners to follow these guidelines with Xbox One.” It is unclear whether or not the PS4 will be region locked.
The Federal Data Protection Commissioner in Germany Peter Schaar has publically stated that he personally considers the Xbox One a “monitoring device,” which “continuously records all sorts of personal information…[including] reaction rates, my learning or emotional states. They are then processed on an external server, and possible even passed on to third parties. Whether they will ever be deleted, the person can not influence.” While it is hoped that this is merely a hyperbolic overreaction, there is currently very little factual information available. (Translation provided by Google Translate)
Microsoft have added 30,000 servers to Xbox Live, which will be used to improve graphical and gameplay performance for Xbox One titles. GPU- and CPU-heavy tasks that aren’t bound by latency (such as cloth or water rendering) can be sent off to the server farm, pre-calculated, and then applied to the scene by the console. According to GM of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms at Microsoft, Matt Booty, the Xbox One server cloud will provide three virtual devices for “every Xbox One available in your living room.” Developers will need to manage how their titles make use of this remote grunt. This means that games may look better when the console is online, though Booty notes that if the Internet drops out mid-session, “the game is going to have to intelligently handle that.”
TweakTown has posted a specs comparison between the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and just for kicks, the Xbox 360. It seems that the PS4 has the lead when it comes to pure theoretical performance, but if the mere fact of the current console generation’s continued performance—eight years after its inception—is anything to go by, what really matters is the dedication to each platform shown by the developers. The Xbox 360 is far less capable than the PS3 on paper, and yet still performs admirably despite its aged and inferior interior.
Microsoft may well get a little more than a taste of pre-owned Xbox One game sales. According to a report over at MCV, retailers that wish to sell pre-owned Xbox One games will need to agree to certain terms and conditions, and hand over almost the entire trade-in price to Microsoft. Unconfirmed reports from ConsoleDeals.co.uk claim that retailers will get to keep less than 10% of the trade-in price, which is apparently £35. It should be noted that since this report was published, Microsoft’s Major Nelson has officially, albeit unsatisfyingly responded, “The ability to trade in and resell games is important to gamers and to Xbox. Xbox One is designed to support the trade in and resale of games. Reports about our policies for trade in and resale are inaccurate and incomplete. We will disclose more information in the near future.”
Microsoft have filed for a patent to use Kinect 2 to enable ‘visual DRM’, or “content distribution regulation by viewing user.” After reports from unverified “industry sources,” Microsoft have officially responded, “Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice; not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product.”
Speaking of patents, Microsoft have also filed for a patent covering the ability to mete out sweet, sweet achievements and Gamerscore points for watching television.
Motorola show off prototype physical augmentations at D11
Motorola have developed two “wearable” technologies which may stretch the definition of the term, somewhat. The closest product to the definition is a prototype electronic tattoo which includes “an antenna and a couple of circuits,” that the Google-owned electronics manufacturer hopes to use as a proximity-based authenticator. Former DARPA head, and now SVP for advanced technology and projects at Motorola, Regina Dugan, was sporting the tattoo on her arm during her presentation at the D11 conference. The second, and slightly crazier prototype is a pill that includes a chip which, when swallowed, is powered by your stomach acid and transmits an 18-bit signal, effectively turning your entire person into an “authentication token.” Dugan called the technology “vitamin authentication.” According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, the pill has been approved by the FDA.
Noise-cancelling the Internet could be the key to higher speeds and greater reliability
Noise-cancelling headphones work by using a microphone to capture external low-frequency sound waves, such as the low rumble of a plane’s engines, and playing those sound waves exactly as they’re heard through the headphones. The trick is in inverting the noise to its phase conjugate, putting the sound waves 180 degrees out of phase with the intruding waves, thus effectively cancelling out the noise altogether. Researchers have discovered that a similar method could be used to reduce noise in fibre optic communications, thus increasing the speed of those transmissions, and making them more reliable. Lead researcher Xiang Liu and his associates found that sending original data along with its phase conjugate made filtering out noise a simple matter, without having to add expensive and complicated monitoring systems to the existing Internet infrastructure. The team was able to reliably send data at 400Gbps over a distance of 12,800 kilometres. The reduction in errors increases bandwidth by reducing the need to resent failed packets.
Google rolling out new Gmail Inbox, introduces tabs
Before tabbed browsing was a thing, the Internet was a much darker place. Whether you were a casual or advanced user, the introduction of tabs to our web browsing experience changed it for the better. Well, now Google hope to do the same thing to Gmail with the new Gmail Inbox. The new Gmail Inbox utilises five tabs which essentially ‘pre-sort’ your email into their respective categories: Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates. Users can drag and drop messages into tabs to move them around, and manually set specific senders to always appear in a certain tab. Starred messages from any tab will also appear in the Primary tab. Users can choose which of the tabs they wish to use with their inbox, or opt to turn them all off and continue unabated. The new paradigm is set to gradually roll out to desktop, Gmail for Android 4.0+, and Gmail for iPhone and iPad in the coming weeks, as is Google’s wont for the release of new features.