Also, an Earth-sized star made of diamond.
By Jason Imms on June 27, 2014 at 9:46 am
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is your 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 Oculus VR’s acquisition of the design company behind the Xbox 360 controller, the shielding that protects the ISS, the worth of 4K monitors, and Google’s augmented reality shopping project.
Oculus VR acquires design firm behind Xbox 360 controller
Fresh from its own acquisition by Facebook, Oculus VR has done some acquisition of its own. The VR headset maker has agreed to acquire Carbon Design Group, the design company that worked with Microsoft on the creation of the near-ubiquitous Xbox 360 controller and the first Kinect camera. “The team will officially become a key component of the product engineering group at Oculus,” the company announced this week. “This is an entirely open product category,” said Peter Bristol, Creative Director at Carbon Design. “With consumer VR at its inception, the physical architectures are still unknown – We’re on the cutting edge of defining how virtual reality looks, feels, and functions.” The acquisition deal is expected to close by the end of the US summer.
Affordable 4K monitors are available now, but it might be worth holding out
4K monitors have been available for a while now, but have recently entered into the affordable end of the market, tempting gamers to look into their options for pixel-dense gaming experiences. The Wirecutter, an excellent source for in-depth reviews and recommendations for most forms of consumer electronics, has just published coverage of the current state of the 4K monitor market, and suggests that we wait for now. It’s worth reading in detail the reasons for their recommendation, but the key points are hard to ignore – panel quality is an issue at lower price points, frame rates are locked at 30 Hz until HDMI 2.0 becomes widespread, and the system requirements necessary for gaming at 3840×2160 are prohibitive.
Test shows how much damage space debris can do to ISS shielding
The Kessler effect is a scenario proposed by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit reaches high enough proportions that any single collision could cause a cascade, with each collision resulting in more space debris, thus increasing the likelihood of further collisions. This could result in a density of debris so high that space exploration, even the use of satellites, could be put in serious long-term jeopardy. In order to protect valuable assets and astronauts from the Kessler effect, the ISS and other spacecraft are shielded using a Kevlar-based shielding technology that, much like terrestrial bulletproof vests, is designed ablate and deflect projectiles before they can cause serious harm. The photo above, released by the ESA this week, shows the damage done to a piece of that shielding, which has had an aluminium bullet fired at it at a rate of 7 kilometres per second. Despite that gaping hole, the test proved that the shielding was successful in slowing and destroying the projectile, such that the innermost layer of shielding (a 3mm thick layer of aluminium) was left with little more than a scorch mark. It should be noted that 7km/s is a somewhat conservative test, given that the ISS has an orbital speed of 7.7 km/s, and that debris travelling in the opposite direction would result in a much more serious impact.
Augmented Reality shopping with Google’s Project Tango
Google has announced Project Tango, the augmented shopping system that wants to simplify and somewhat gamify the act of browsing at physical stores. Starting with Walgreens in the US, Project Tango provides shoppers with a tablet device that can be carried or hooked onto shopping trolleys which provides the user the ability to search for products and receive GTA-style augmented reality directions to those products, complete with a minimap. As users walk down a store’s aisles, notifications will jump out of shelves alerting them to nearby products that are on sale, and pickups will appear for users to collect to accumulate loyalty points. Check out the announcement and concept video below.
Scientists discover an Earth-sized diamond-encrusted white dwarf
A white dwarf star is the remnant of a long-dead star that has burned through all of its nuclear fuel. The outer layers of a dying star are thrown off, leaving a super-dense core of elements like carbon and oxygen. White dwarves burn at a low temperature and at an incredibly slow pace, taking billions and billions of years to finally burn out, and can be very difficult to spot thanks to their low energy output compared to neighbouring stars. PSR J2222-0137 was spotted next to a much larger pulsar 900 light years away, and has a temperature of less than 3000 K, or about 2700 degrees Celsius – less than an industrial acetylene torch. In fact, it is so old and cool that it has crystallised in to what is essentially an Earth-sized diamond.