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    How Virtual Humans Learn Emotion and Social Intelligence

    At USC ICT's Virtual Humans lab, we learn how researchers build tools and algorithms that teach AI the complexities of social and emotional cues. We run through a few AI demos that demonstrate nuanced social interaction, which will be important for future systems like autonomous cars.

    Hands-On with Shaper Origin Handheld CNC Router!

    This is super cool: a handheld CNC router that uses computer vision to let you see exactly what you're cutting through the bit, and compensates for any shaky hand movement with automatic stabilization. We visit Shaper to learn about the Origin and test out its features!

    Digitizing Photorealistic Humans Inside USC's Light Stage

    We learn how actors are digitized and turned into photorealistic models inside USC ICT's Light Stage capture system. Paul Debevec and his team at the Graphics Lab are focused on inventing technologies that create the most realistic-looking virtual people, objects, and environments. We were blown away by the capabilities of the light stage!

    Weathering Techniques for Cosplay Costumes

    Making new fabrics look old and weathered is a practiced art. Doug Stewart has been working on costumes for film productions for over two decades. We chat about his work as a specialty costume maker and get a demo of his weathering process for costumes used at this year's E3.

    Tested Tours VR Projects at USC's Mixed Reality Lab

    At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, computer scientists and engineers have been tinkering with virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in between. We're given a tour of ICT's Mixed Reality Lab, where projects explore the intersections of VR and accessibility, avatars, and even aerial drones.

    Making a 3D-Printed Sith Lightsaber Kit!

    We're thrilled to unveil a new 3D printed project from Sean Charlesworth! Sean was inspired to design and print his own Star Wars-inspired lightsaber, but with his own twist: this Sith model is a cutaway design that shows the internal construction of the hilt. Sean discusses how he came up with this design and how he used the Formlabs Form 2 printer fabricate it. Plus, the design files are free for anyone to download!

    USC Mixed Reality Lab's VR Redirected Walking Demo

    We recently visited the USC Institute of Creative Technology's Mixed Reality Lab, where virtual reality researchers are experimenting with software that will let you walk around forever in VR. We test their redirected walking and lightfield model demos and learn how these technologies could work in future VR games.

    Solar Impulse 2: Around The World On Sunshine And Guts

    With its gaunt skeletal frame and awkward, lanky proportions, the Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) is a far cry from the supersonic image one normally gets when discussing revolutionary, record-setting aircraft. Where is the pointy nose? What about the fire-belching rocket engines?

    Despite its dragonfly-like appearance, SI2 is indeed a radical and ground-breaking machine. Swiss Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre' Borschberg recently completed a 23,000 mile journey around the globe in SI2 using only solar power. The words don't quite capture the enormity of this accomplishment. So let me say it again: This airplane flew completely around the world without using one single ounce of fossil fuel!

    Solar Impulse 2 may look a little strange, but it is a high-tech machine that holds numerous world records. It recently completed an around-the-world journey using only solar energy.

    If the feat accomplished by SI2 and her pilots does not leave you slack-jawed and perhaps drooling ever so slightly on your keyboard, you still don't get it. This is an enormous milestone for both aviation and solar power technology.

    Most aeronautical achievements are as dependent on technological breakthroughs as they are piloting feats of derring-do. SI2's around-the-world success was no different. It required not only a cutting edge machine, but also pilots who were willing to risk everything to see what it could do.

    Stop and Go

    SI2's circumnavigation was not accomplished in a single flight. The team's original plan divided the route into 12 eastbound legs spanning a period of about 4 months. These things take time when your average flying speed is only 41 miles per hour. As it turned out, SI2 landed in 17 cities and required more than 16 months to complete the trip.

    Solar Impulse 2 has only one seat. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard (left) and Andre' Borschberg alternated flying duties during the globetrotting trip.

    The airplane is built to carry just one person, so Piccard and Borschberg traded off flying duties…each flying solo for specific legs of the flight. Throughout the journey, a support team travelled to each of the waypoints to receive and send off SI2. There was also a mission control center located in Monaco where, among other things, specialists kept an eye on the weather, and monitored SI2's myriad systems via satellite.

    The shortest leg of the flight was an outlier lasting less than 5 hours between Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania and New York City. The next shortest flight was just over 13 hours, with several other legs lasting less than 20 hours.

    Star Wars Han Solo in Carbonite Refrigerator

    Frank Ippolito unveils another dream build! His Han Solo in Carbonite refrigerator is exactly the kind of brilliant idea that's not easy to execute. We walk through the build process and show how Frank sourced accurate parts from the replica prop community and added awesome features like glowing lights!

    Tested: Shooting and Editing 360-Degree Video

    Thanks for enjoying all of our Comic-Con videos these past two weeks! One of the things we were allowed to do for the event was experiment with 360-degree video production for a live demo before Adam's panel. We sit down to discuss our learning experiences from shooting and editing video for virtual reality.

    Testing: Windows 10 Anniversary Update for Xbox One and Phones

    Computers of course aren't the only devices running Windows these days. The Xbox One's core was updated to Windows 10 last November. The already released Anniversary Update makes adjustments to the new UI and adds some new features. And let's not forget about Mobile, which benefits primarily from recent updates to the many apps of Windows.

    Xbox One Updates

    Similar to PCs, the Anniversary Update for the Xbox One brings a combination of new features, UI tweaks, and software improvements. The most noteworthy change in my opinion is the UI for My Games & Apps. These lists finally scroll vertically and you can fit as many as 30 tiles on screen at once. They can be sorted alphabetically in one pile, by letter like on a phone, last used, last updated, or by size. You have three options for the size of the tiles too. The headache of getting to your ready to install games and apps is nonexistent now with a dedicated tab added to the left column. It's baffling as to why it took so long for this to be updated, but it's finally here. Honestly, the only adjustment I'd like to see made is a separate list for Xbox 360 games.

    Cortana is also on Xbox now, taking over the old voice commands if you so choose. Microsoft has leveraged their digital assistant here to enable users to use more natural language with voice commands. For example, you no longer have to say the full length of a game title in order to launch it, so instead of saying "Xbox go to Halo 5 Guardians" you can now say "Hey Cortana play Halo 5". And even if you don't have a Kinect, the new voice commands work through a headset as well.

    The Cortana voice commands started working well only with the last major Preview release, so it's hard to compare using voice commands for a couple of days to a couple of years. But so far they seem to work about as well as the old ones for me, or in other words, most of the time. This Cortana has the same functionality as any other device running Windows 10, so she can do everything from checking the weather, to doing a web search, and even singing songs. That added functionality can potentially result in more problems however.

    Having used Cortana for years now, I was fairly certain I could get it to fail. While watching tv, Cortana can change the channel to stations such as ESPN and CNN without issue. However, when I said "Hey Cortana watch HGTV," just as I had suspected, Cortana did a web search for "watch hgtv" instead of going to the channel. I even went into the OneGuide to favorite the channel, which on the old voice commands was supposed to help with similar failings, but I still got the same result. Thankfully, I haven't had any issues yet with Cortana responding while I'm playing a game to do things like recording game clips. If you decide you don't like using Cortana, there is an option in Settings to turn them off and go back to the old Kinect only Xbox voice commands.

    And background music is back! It's only taken three years, but the secret best feature of the Xbox 360 is now on the Xbox One. The feature wasn't live at the time of this writing, but a new Groove Music app will soon be updated with this long requested feature. It's also open to third parties, with Pandora and the podcast app Cast available at launch. Playback controls will actually be found in the Guide, so no need to snap the app, or of course music can also be controlled via Cortana.

    Making the Mad Max R/C Car Part 3: Assembly, Finishing, Painting

    Painting and applying the finishing touches to a project is usually my very favorite part of the process and this mini Mad Max inspired R/C car I've been working on is no exception. There's something incredibly satisfying about the storytelling you can imbue into your creation with the right amount of color, texture, and grime on a build like this.

    Something that just about every post apocalyptic vehicle has in common is rust. There's no getting around the kind of oxidation a metal car is going to endure when traversing a post apocalyptic wasteland. So, after priming all my pieces with a rattle can spray primer, I airbrushed on a nice, burnt sienna rust layer. This was a thinned down, pre mixed acrylic paint. Nothing fancy here!

    Some of the other parts of the car weren't going to be all rusty, so they were base coated with other airbrushed colors. The jerry cans, for example, would be made of a plastic, so they were painted red. Any of the parts that would be chrome were done with a rattle can of sprayed, black lacquer.

    Testing: Microsoft Windows 10 Anniversary Update (PC)

    Windows 10 was released this time last year, and unlike previous versions of Windows, it's frequently updated, thanks in no small part to crucial, open feedback from users. Windows is essentially a service now. But while you'll likely never see the words "service pack" ever again, Microsoft isn't shying away from major updates. The Anniversary Update is the biggest one yet and includes new features and UI tweaks. I've been running Insider builds of this update for about a month, and Microsoft sent out the final version to Insiders a week and a half before everyone else gets it, for free, beginning August 2nd.

    Windows Ink

    Without a doubt the biggest addition are the Windows Ink features. These are mostly under the hood improvements that allow developers to add inking to existing apps and more easily make new ones. In the Anniversary Update they're showcased in something called the Windows Ink Workspace. Acting a bit like the Action Center or Cortana, the Ink Workspace can be accessed from a new icon near the system tray and it slides out from the taskbar. When opened you'll first see Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen sketch.

    Sticky Notes have existed as a baked in feature in previous versions of Windows. The difference now is that they're actually kind of useful. Just like a real sticky note, if you're using a device with a pen you can easily jot things down. Cortana can also tie-in to create reminders based on your notes. This isn't automatic however, and will take a few taps every time to complete. There are people out there that love their sticky notes, so now they're here in Windows in a modern way and work well.

    Touring Prop Store's Booth at Comic-Con

    One of the best parts of Comic-Con is getting up close with rare movie props at the Prop Store booth. Brandon Alinger walks us through some of the collection on display, which will be going on auction later this year.

    Prop Shop's Star Wars: The Force Awakens Replicas

    Prop Shop had their helmet, lightsaber, and other prop replicas on display at their Comic-Con booth, and we get up close with one of our favorite pieces: Darth Vader's burnt helmet. We learn how the pieces are made, how they're derived from the original prop data, and check out a new piece unveiled.

    Oculus Medium Sculpting Demo with DC Comics

    Another surprise for us at Comic-Con was running into the team at Oculus, demoing their Touch controllers and the Oculus Medium sculpting tool at the DC Comics booth. We chat with Medium's project lead about how it's changed, and learn how artists are beta testing it in their creative workflows.

    Sideshow Collectibles Booth Tour at Comic-Con 2016

    We tour the Sideshow Collectibles booth at this year's Comic-Con--4,000 square feet of awesome toys and statues. From sixth scale Star Wars to life-size droid replicas, we get up close with these prototype sculptures and paint masters. Check out that Iron Giant!