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Hands-On: VR Zombie Shooting in Arizona Sunshine

Developer Vertigo Games are making a zombie shoot-'em-up for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, and we demo it at the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase. Afterward, we chat with the studio about how it's making zombie shooting fun, interesting, and challenging in room-scale VR.

Tested: Form 2 SLA Desktop 3D Printer

A few months ago, we previewed the new Formlabs Form 2 SLA resin 3D printer, which on paper looked to be an improvement on the Form 1+ printer in every way. Since then, Formlabs supplied us with a review unit to evaluate those improvements in long-term testing. The upshot is that the Form 2 lives up to its promises--it's an amazing 3D printer. But you should read our extended review before you go out and buy one.

Photo credit: Formlabs

Compared to original Formlabs Form 1 printer, the Form 2 has a bigger print volume, a more powerful laser, a new resin cartridge system and new peel mechanism, among many other updates. When we reviewed the Form 1+, I was mostly pleased with its prints, but there were a number of things that I felt needed addressed, including the tendency for several critical components to fail in my early test units. Formlabs has done so with the Form 2--we've not had a single mechanical failure. Our review was with a pre-production printer with original firmware and beta software. [NOTE: I'm not going into detail about how the SLA printing process works, as on a base level, it has not changed from the Form 1+. Take a look at that review for an in-depth explanation.]

The Print Quality

Impressive Detail!

We were very pleased with the Form 2 prints, most were done at 50-100 microns. The resolved detail was very impressive even at 100 micron, especially when compared to prints off of industrial 3D printing machines not meant for home-use. For most prints I can't see needing to go much below 50 microns as the quality was great. Prints that completed had very few flaws, too. Occasionally, very small details in our prints broke off during printing (ie: GIR's antenna tip, Nautilus tip). On many of the Form 1+ prints the side that printed nearest the platform tended to have some 'mushy' details, and I did not notice this on the Form 2. Noticed on some prints, we will address this in the upcoming video.

Take 20 Minutes to Watch This Build

This is a pretty special build. Angelo Casimiro, or TechBuilder on YouTube, lives in the Philippines. He wanted to make a full sized, fully operable BB-8 for his dad for Christmas. His build used only household materials, and things from the local hardware store. My favorite hack: using roll-on deodorant for bearings and old speakers for their magnets.

But the ingenuity and prodigious problem-solving don't end there. He made his sphere using only newspaper, a beach ball, some canvas, white glue and wood putty! I would hire this kid in a New York second. With the ubiquity of 3D printers, laser cutters and the like (which is wonderful, don't get me wrong!), it's easy to lose sight of just what tremendous possibilities reside in humble materials like scrap wood, cardboard, hot glue and newspaper.

This would be an incredible classroom build for literally ANYONE.

But there's another reason I love this video.

Hands-On: VR Shooting Gallery in Space Pirate Trainer

Here's one game we played at the SteamVR Developer Showcase that feels like the perfect virtual reality arcade game. Space Pirate Trainer shows that there's a lot of complexity and tuning needed to get one just one basic mechanic feeling right in VR. They've got the shooting gallery down!

Richard Meier's Architectural Model Museum

Filmmaker Barbara Anastacio recently toured a new architectural model museum at the Mana Contemporary gallery in Jersey City. Architect Richard Meier discusses the importance of these models as artifacts of the architectural design process, and why they should be preserved and appreciated. The 15,000 square-feet museum houses about 400 models, hundreds of architectural drawings, and a thousand books on architecture. Definitely marked as a place to visit the next time I'm on the east coast! (h/t Sondre)

In Brief: Smithsonian Begins USS Enterprise Model Restoration

Last week, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum announced the team that has been tasked with restoring the original television filming model of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (no bloody A, B, C, or D). Restoration is lead by John Goodson, who is joined by ILMers Bill George and Kim Smith (now of Creature Art & Mechanics Digital). The team is analyzing not only the aesthetic details of the model as it appeared on the show (circa August 1967, during the filming of The Trouble with Tribbles), but also the original materials and construction methods to understand its aged state. The Enterprise isn't just getting a new paint job, it's getting a paint job that represents the same pigments and plastics layered on the model over its production lifespan. The Smithsonian blog post has many more details about how the team is achieving this, along with the restoration roadmap for the model to be ready for display in by this summer--Star Trek's 50th anniversary. (h/t Gavin Rothery)

Norman 3
Google Play App Roundup: Guides by Lonely Planet, Downwell, and Punch Club

Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

Guides by Lonely Planet

Planning some travel? If planning is the operative word there, you might want to get the new Lonely Planet app on your mobile device. Lonely Planet is the largest publisher of travel guides in the world, making it a great resource for getting your trip lined up in advance, or even spur of the moment.

The Lonely Planet app includes comprehensive guides for a lot of cities (a few dozen), but not everywhere you might visit. If you can't find a guide for a city, the app can notify you if a guide is released. The guides you want will be downloaded locally to your device for offline accessibility. That's handy for those times when you're visiting a place where you won't have reliable (or reasonably priced) internet access on your phone.

The app shows your downloaded city guides right at the top. Upon opening it, there are categories for food, entertainment, shopping, attractions, and so on. There's also a map at the top you can view that has all the points of interest on it. Importantly, this map is also available offline. Below the categories are "interests, " which are specific groups of places like museums and historic points of interest.

This is a material app with proper implementation of the slide-out navigation menu with different sections of the guide. The default view is Discover, but there's also Need to Know with basic overview information and cost data. It's impressive how deep these guides go. You can drill down to get reviews of individual restaurants and attractions. The app itself is a bit plain (predominantly white), but there are various material animations and the content is all native, not webframe. It's fast and easy to get around in if you've used any other modern Android app.

If Lonely Planet has a guide for your destination, it's a no-brainer to download and use it. The guides are great and the app is free.

Hands-On: VR Multiplayer Shootouts in Hover Junkers

Hover Junkers is the first multiplayer shooter we've played in virtual reality, and we loved every minute of our demo in it. We chat with the game's lead designer to learn how VR enhances deathmatch gameplay, and how flying RC quadcopters and playing with airsoft informed Hover Junkers' design.