Since Oculus, SteamVR, and PlayStation VR will each have different tracking capabilities and handheld controllers, how will virtual reality game developers make software that will work across all platforms? We chat with the devs at Owlchemy Labs, whose upcoming Job Simulator game will work on HTC Vive and Oculus Touch. Here's how they see cross-platform VR working, and what they think about each system so far.
Back in the early eighties, a number of magazines dedicated to special effects brought the work of artists into the spotlight. Publications like Cinefex and Cinefantastique helped a number of effects mavens became stars in their own right, like Rick Baker, Dick Smith, and Tom Savini, to name a few. But it wasn't just make-up artists that became well known among film geeks. Greg Jein became a legend in the model building world, thanks to his work on Close Encounters, 1941, The Hunt For Red October, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and more. Jein is still working steadily as a master model builder in the age of CGI--he was working on the show Black Sails when we reached out to him to talk about his career and current work.
When Rick Baker started creating monsters out of latex, there wasn't the huge effects industry there is today. Jein didn't think of going into the movie industry as a model builder at first, "I just sort of blundered into the business," he told us with a laugh. "I used to watch a lot of war movies as a kid growing up," Jein said. "I still like airplanes. I used to go to a lot of airshows, and I started making some models. What actually got me started was I never had a major in college, so I finally took an art major."
Through friends, Jein heard that Sea World needed some fiberglass props, and he eventually hooked up with an effects company called Cascade. "A lot of this stemmed from the Cascade guys, and the hi-tech commercials like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, the Green Giant…a lot of the Star Wars guys came from that."
Jein then broke into making models for low budget films like Flesh Gordon, and John Carpenter's Dark Star. On Gordon, Jein was getting paid $75 a week, and there were times he didn't get paid at all, but he still had fun working on it, and his work on Dark Star soon brought him to the attention of Douglas Trumbull (2001, Silent Running).
Epic Games, makers of the Unreal Engine 4, are spreading the excitement for virtual reality with a new short documentary series called 'Sense of Presence'. The second episode just debuted, featuring interviews with game developers, Epic Games' own engineers, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey about what it takes to build virtual spaces.
Photographer and iOS developer Lisa Bettany (co-founder of Camera+) has been running an ongoing test of the cameras on every generation of iPhone. Every year, she boots up every previous iPhone and runs them through a series of photo tests to compare their quality with the latest release. This year's test, featuring the iPhone 6S, shows how the new 12MP sensor and image processing improves color accuracy, auto-focus speed, and low light sharpness. Even though her comparisons are constrained to the iPhone cameras, it's educational to see what series of tests she runs and how Apple refines its image processing software from year to year.
We recently visited the workshop of Mike Senna, a droid builder who has made his own R2-D2 and Wall-E robots. Mike's next project is recreating the BB-8 droid featured in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens! We discuss what's known so far about how BB-8 was built for the film, how a remote-controlled model could be built, and take apart a BB-8 Sphero to see if we can learn anything from the small-scale toy!
We test and review the Google OnHub, a $200 home router with a unique barebones cylindrical design. We talk about how its antenna configuration is supposed to make it a good access point, and the merits of an app-based router interface. Here's how Google's router performs alongside other 802.11ac routers!
The movie edition of Andy Weir's fantastically popular sci-fi novel, The Martian, is set to hit theaters in just a few days. Although the storyline is fictional, NASA has taken a keen interest in the movie, providing consultants to Hollywood and hosting a handful of promotional events. Clearly, the agency sees something to celebrate in Weir's vision of the future for manned spaceflight.
As we have seen in the previous articles of this series, there are numerous similarities between The Martian and how NASA actually handles things in space, such as water, air, electrical power and problem solving. In this final article we'll examine NASA's current plan for visiting Mars.
NASA is not being secretive about their plans for putting humans on Mars as early as 2030. They've even published a website with a slew of information. Yet, any plans that project 15+ years into the future are bound to be heavy with technical and financial assumptions. As the agency moves forward, the plan will certainly evolve to match the reality of the times.
We're finding out that Mars has a very diverse landscape. Scientists are still trying to decide where the first manned Mars expeditions will land. It is a debate that will likely linger well into the next decade. Several satellites are currently orbiting Mars and mapping its surface. Lower-resolution, broad-brush mapping images will help the scientists narrow down the field of landing site candidates. Subsequent high-resolution imagery will be used to pinpoint precise landing locations.
While many fundamental aspects of a manned Martian mission remain in limbo, the basic timeline appears to be ironed out. If you've read Weir's book, you'll notice that it follows NASA's plan nearly verbatim. It goes something like this:
MAVEN has reached Mars! "Hold up!" I hear you cry. "What the heck is MAVEN?" Well, I'll tell you. It's the latest in a long line of spacecraft sent to gather data on the Red Planet. Its full title is the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, and it's the first of its kind, dedicated as it is to exploring in detail the upper atmosphere of Mars.
But all that's a bit of a mouthful, so MAVEN it is.
One of the puzzles the MAVEN mission controllers are hoping to solve is the mystery of how the sun may have stripped Mars of its early atmosphere, creating a barren desert out of a world that may once have supported microbial life.
What they're unlikely to find are the irradiated survivors of a doomed Martian race, a bat-headed spider, an abandoned atmosphere processing plant or a race of green, six-armed warriors.
All of the above have graced our cinema screens over the years, and little wonder. As one of Earth's closest celestial neighbors, Mars has long fascinated filmmakers.