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Hands-On: Cloudlands VR Minigolf on the HTC Vive Pre

Virtual reality can take simple activities like miniature golf and put them in fantastic environments. We try Cloudlands: VR Minigolf at the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase and learn how replicating the feel of accurately putting a golf ball is surprisingly complicated.

Hands-On: Fantastic Contraption with HTC Vive Pre

At the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase, we got more hands-on time with Fantastic Contraption, a creative physics-based puzzle game that makes excellent use of virtual reality. We chat with the developers to learn how they're experimenting with physics and user interface in VR.

Hands-On: The Gallery with HTC Vive Pre

We go hands-on with The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, an adventure game made for room-scale virtual reality. We chat with the game's developer about how you traverse large spaces in The Gallery, the challenges of designing VR puzzles, and how performance capture is augmented with headsets.

Hands-On: Virtual Reality Portals in Budget Cuts

At the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase, we played a little of Budget Cuts, a virtual reality stealth/puzzle game using room-scale environment and portals for locomotion. We chat with one of its creators to learn how effective portals can be for VR gameplay, and share some demo impressions.

The Ups and Downs of Android Wear in 2016

Google launched Android Wear in the summer of 2014, almost a year before the Apple Watch went on sale. In retrospect, that first release did feel a little rushed, but the feature set evolved rapidly. Google has worked with OEMs on a two generations of Android Wear devices, made numerous tweaks to the OS, and started selling devices directly in the Google Store. However, wearables are still a hard sell to consumers, and Android Wear has experienced several setbacks. Let's see where Google's wearable platform stands and where it's going.

New Partnerships

The first round of Android Wear devices were produced by traditional smartphone heavyweights like LG and Samsung. These devices didn't have the most elegant design, but they worked well enough as demos of what the platform was capable of. Newer smartwatches from companies like Motorola show a marked improvement in design aesthetic, but it's clear these are still smartphone OEMs playing at being watchmakers.

As OEMs work on making smartwatches more watch-like, Google has gone to real watchmakers to bring a different approach to Android Wear. Tag Heuer and Fossil are the first watchmakers to create Android Wear devices, and the design is definitely more impressive than other Wear devices. Even the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch--which I consider the best designed Wear devices from phone makers--avoid taking too many risks with the design, resulting in a minimalist look. That's fine, but I feel like they're just trying not to screw up because they lack the expertise of a company like Fossil. The Fossil Q Founder has a very attractive design, and it looks like a real watch, but it's maybe not the best smartwatch.

Adam Savage's One Day Builds: Making a Puppet!

Adam Savage is a HUGE fan of puppets. And so a very special One Day Build was conceived when Rick Lyon, creator of the puppets for the Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q, invited Adam to stop by his Newark workshop to design and build his very own puppet. Everyone, please meet Finn!

Episode 336 - SteamVR Developer Showcase - 1/28/16
Special episode of This is Only a Test this week, as Norm is on location in Seattle for Vavle and HTC's SteamVR Developer Showcase. The VR Minute is expanded into a full-blown episode, as we chat with the developers of Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption about their experiments in virtual reality and lessons learned from game development. (Sorry, no video this week. We'll be back in studio next week for a regular episode!)
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What it Takes to Keep a B-29 Superfortress Flying

Last month, we looked at the dedication and financial resources that are required to keep a WWII-era P-51 Mustang in flyable condition. It is definitely not for the meek or frugal. As civilian-owned warbirds go, the P-51 probably represents the middle of the road in terms of overhead. Many aspiring warbird owners seek former trainer and liaison aircraft because they are generally much easier and less costly to maintain and operate than fighters. At the opposite end of the scale are large, multi-engine transports and bombers. While there are a few of these pricier treasures in private hangars, they often demand resources that only a diverse and well-funded organization can provide.

When it comes to WWII airplanes, few are bigger and none are more complex than the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. I recently had an opportunity to get an up-close look at FIFI, the only airworthy B-29 in the world. The airplane was at the Vintage Flying Museum in Fort Worth, Texas undergoing off-season maintenance. Just by seeing the huge airplane in the hangar with its massive engines uncowled, it was immediately obvious that it takes a tremendous operation to keep her flying. I later spoke with Kim Pardon and Brad Pilgrim from the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), the nonprofit organization that has owned and operated FIFI for more than 40 years. They were able to provide an insider's perspective of what's involved to keep FIFI in the air year after year.

Rininger – Keeping FIFI airworthy is a huge financial commitment. All things considered, each hour of flight costs about $10,000. (Photo courtesy Tyson Rininger/Commemorative Air Force)

Learning About FIFI

The CAF has numerous WWII-era aircraft operating from various airports around the country…including other 4-engined bombers. Yet, FIFI is the only airplane in your fleet that has a full-time crew. What is it about this airplane that demands the extra resources?

Brad Pilgrim - FIFI is probably the most maintenance intensive airplane in the CAF's fleet. In order to keep up with the required maintenance and the flying schedule, we have to keep a couple of full-time mechanics on staff.

Kim Pardon - FIFI is also the only CAF aircraft that generates the kind of revenue it takes to sustain this level of maintenance. Most other CAF aircraft rely primarily on volunteer maintenance. The organization has a lot of dedicated and talented volunteers. Because we (the B-29 crew) travel almost 24 weeks a year we rely heavily on our paid maintenance staff to travel with us and help us fulfill all of our tour obligations.