Survival gameplay could be the evolution Fallout needs

After a teasing Twitch stream which lasted almost an entire day, Bethesda finally revealed the trailer for its latest game: Fallout 76. The trailer itself didn’t reveal much beyond the fact the game concerns Vault 76 and the soundtrack might evolve past “Butcher Pete” and “Civilization” finally (though I’m not sure John Denver is where I’d have taken it, but whatever). “When the fighting has stopped, and the fallout has settled…” “#Fallout76 – the newest game from Bethesda Game Studios. See more at the #BE3 Showcase – June 10th @ 6:30pm PT — Fallout (@Fallout) May 30, 2018 With no…

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HQ Trivia to give away millions during NBA finals

HQ Trivia, the hugely popular smartphone quiz game, plans to give away millions of dollars in prizes during the upcoming NBA finals. The finals kick off tomorrow, and will see the Golden State Warriors pitted against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Those unfamiliar with basketball may be a little bit unfamiliar with how basketball finals work. Unlike soccer and rugby, where a team has to win just one game, in Basketball, teams play several games. To be ultimately crowned victor, a team must win four games. While it’s possible that a team can win four games in a row, it’s far more…

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Opinion: There’s more to the Google military AI project than we’ve been told

Google, a company whose motto used to be “don’t be evil,” has had its ethics questioned lately over its insistence on developing AI for the Pentagon. If you’re among the many people who don’t understand why, against the grain, the Mountain View company would risk such damage to its reputation, you’re not alone. It’s not the money. According to a report from Gizmodo, Google is getting around $9 million. Sure, for most of us that would set us up for life, but let’s not forget that Google is worth nearly a trillion dollars. It can afford to skip a project…

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Atari finally opens pre-orders for its VCS retro console

Atari today opened up pre-orders for its revival console, the VCS. For a few days, you can order at least one version of the VCS for a discounted price, along with the 100 or so games which will come installed with it. Atari’s had a bit of a rougher time getting its throwback console to the market than Nintendo. The Big N’s sold four million SNES Classics and 2.3 million NES Classics, at the most recent estimate. By contrast, Atari’s had to raise interest via its crowdfunding campaign. That said, it apparently offers more than either of its Nintendo competitors. While…

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Google’s ‘Just a Line’ lets you doodle in AR with a friend

Earlier this year, Google released an Android app for drawing in AR called Just a Line. Doodling in AR is fun; you can make things objects float in thin air, like an art class at Hogwarts. Problem is, when only you can see what you’re drawing, you look kind of nutso waving around your phone in the air. And I mean, is your masterpiece even real if now one else is able to appreciate it? Fret no more. Google now lets you draw with a friend in Just a Line so you can both look wacky gesticulating in mid-air. Simply…

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Tethers Unlimited delivers 3-D printer and recycler combo to NASA for space station

Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator is a recycler and 3-D printer in one unit, which is about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. This is the technology demonstration unit that’s been undergoing tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (NASA Photo / Emmett Given)

Tethers Unlimited Inc. says it’s delivered a combination 3-D printer and plastic recycler to NASA for testing on the International Space Station.

Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob Hoyt told GeekWire that the Refabricator payload, about the size of a mini-refrigerator, was built under the terms of a $2.5 million Phase 3 contract from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program, or SBIR. It’s on its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is due to be sent to the station on a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight later this year, Hoyt said in an email.

The formal delivery to NASA marks the culmination of three months of performance and certification testing both at Tethers Unlimited’s lab in Bothell, Wash., and at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the company said today in a news release.

“It took a lot of dedication and many long hours by our team to iron out all the challenges associated with creating a highly automated recycling and manufacturing system for use in space, and the guidance of NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Program was invaluable to getting through the certification process,” Hoyt said. “We can’t wait to get this up on the ISS and start demonstrating capabilities for sustainable manufacturing in space.”

NASA TUI Refabricator patch
A mission patch for the Refabricator project reflects the focus on in-space manufacturing and recycling. (TUI / NASA Graphic)

The Refabricator uses a process called “Positrusion” for recycling plastic parts into fresh filament for 3-D printing.

“Traditional plastics recycling and 3-D printer filament manufacturing techniques involve grinding and extrusion steps that could pose safety concerns on the ISS and often require a lot of adjustment to keep them running reliably,” Hoyt explained.

“To create a recycling system that is safe and doesn’t demand a lot of astronaut time, we developed a new method for recycling plastic parts into 3-D printer filament, and integrated it together with a 3-D printer to create a highly automated recycling-and-manufacturing system,” he said.

Hoyt said the process turns out plastic filament that’s extremely consistent in its composition, which should result in high-quality 3-D-printed parts.

“From here, we still have a lot of paperwork to finalize, and the staff members who will be operating the system remotely will go through the formal training needed to qualify them to operate equipment on the ISS,” Hoyt told GeekWire.

“The Refabricator will primarily be used to print ‘dogbone’ samples that will be used to study the changes in the plastic material (strength, elasticity, etc.) as it goes through multiple recycling/printing cycles,” he said.

Tethers Unlimited is working on another NASA-funded project known as FabLab, which is aimed at developing a more advanced in-space fabrication facility. FabLab should be capable of manufacturing and recycling 3-D-printed items produced from a variety of materials, including metal as well as plastic.

NASA has set aside $10.5 million for the prototyping phase of the FabLab project, which involves Tethers Unlimited as well as California-based Interlog Corp. and Indiana-based Techshot. After the prototype is delivered, NASA will select partners for further development of the technology.

Additive manufacturing is expected to play a big role in future space exploration. Rather than carrying all the spare parts and tools that may or may not be required for a long-duration mission, astronauts could manufacture what they need from feedstock.

Made In Space's Vulcan system at work
The NASA logo appears in relief on an aluminum item produced by Made In Space’s Vulcan fabrication system. (Made In Space Photo)

The first 3-D printer designed for use in space was built by California-based Made In Space and sent to the space station in 2014. This month, Made In Space announced that it has secured a NASA SBIR Phase 2 contract for further development of its next-generation Vulcan hybrid manufacturing system.

The Vulcan system is designed to fabricate precision parts made of aerospace-grade metals such as titanium and aluminum, as well as plastic parts and hybrid components made from combinations of materiais.

NASA also has invited Made In Space to submit a proposal for a technology flight demonstration mission of its Archinaut technology for building large structures in space. The development team also includes Northrop Grumman for systems integration and avionics work, and Oceaneering for robotic capabilities.

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TLDR: Amazon shareholders meeting, Valve removes school shooting game, new Pokemon products

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Zillow’s Spencer Rascoff on tech’s naiveté toward evil, and how scandals are a wake-up moment

Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff offered his take on tech’s troubles of late during an appearance at the Code Conference on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNBC, Rascoff called it a bit of a “wake-up moment” for tech, as he discussed election hacking and data and privacy scandals, namely at Facebook, and whether government regulation or self-policing by tech companies would provide an adequate remedy.

“I think what I have seen is tech realizing there’s just too much naiveté in product design,” Rascoff said. “The boundless optimism of entrepreneurs has made people not realize how these things can be used for evil. We obviously saw it with Facebook where it was hacked for the elections. Think early Uber, it was launched without rider protections. Early Airbnb launched without guest protections. Even now these scooters that are taking over the West Coast, it never occurred to anyone that bad guys might cut the brakes on them. And now they’re redesigning all these scooters to make sure that the brake wire is inside the metal casing. Tech needs to realize that there are bad people out there and they use these platforms for bad things.”

While he thinks some regulation may be warranted, Rascoff said a more important adjustment is one that will occur among the employs and executives at companies that have been impacted. And at Facebook he believes they’ve gotten the message.

“I really think that the cultural shift that they talked about yesterday is real,” Rascoff said. “I mean, you can see it in Sheryl [Sandberg’s] eyes and hear it in the — I mean, the Facebook executives that I talked to really have taken to heart, they feel the guilt. They feel that their platform was used in a way that it was not designed for. And they are throwing resources and intellect at the problem.”

RELATED: An inside look at Zillow’s first home purchase: How the real estate media giant will buy and sell houses

Zillow is throwing resources and intellect at its own platform, but not to ward off evil. The company’s launch of Zillow Instant Offers was another topic of discussion for Rascoff and CNBC. The CEO called buying and selling homes a “business extension” for the Seattle-based real estate media company.

“We think of it like Netflix moving into originals,” Rascoff said. “It leverages our data advantage. We know what houses people want to buy and sell. We are now buying houses in Phoenix and Las Vegas and selling them within a couple weeks.”

By stepping in and alleviating the angst, work and stress of selling a home, Zillow is just providing another service in an economy that thrives on such on-demand offerings, Rascoff reasoned.

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Amazon Web Services’ newest database, Amazon Neptune, is now generally available

An Amazon Web Services ad at SeaTac airport in the Seattle area (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

After showing it off last year at AWS re:Invent 2017, Amazon Web Services announced Wednesday that its new cloud graph database, Amazon Neptune, is ready for the general public to take it for a spin.

Amazon Neptune fills a gap across the array of databases AWS customers can choose to run on its cloud, giving the company its own graph database product to offer next to open-source graph databases like JanusGraph and commercial products like Neo4j. AWS now offers six managed and generally available databases on its cloud service as well as a database migration service for moving hosted databases into the cloud.

Graph databases are designed for applications that need to quickly make sense of the associations between different groups of data. They allow users to store related bits of data as a graph that can be accessed in a single operation, rather than a bunch of individual queries for all that data.

A very simple example of a data graph. (Amazon Image)

Companies building social networks, fraud-detection apps or personalization features for existing apps, for example, can take advantage of graph databases to deliver more flexibility and speed. AWS rival Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB also offers graph database capabilities.

Amazon Neptune will replicate six copies of your data across three availability zones within AWS computing regions, and AWS said it was designed for 99.99 percent uptime. It is available in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), and EU (Ireland) regions, with more expected to arrive later this year.

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Amazon’s impact on e-commerce, smart speakers and streaming quantified in Mary Meeker’s massive tech report

Amazon showed up all over tech expert Mary Meeker’s massive annual Internet Trends report this year, demonstrating how much the tech giant has branched out in recent years.

Presented at Recode’s Code 2018 conference, the 294-slide deck spent plenty of time on e-commerce, where Amazon continues to thrive. Meeker reports Amazon’s share of the e-commerce market has increased from 20 percent in 2013 to 28 percent this year.

While e-commerce has upended traditional retail, digital sales are still a pretty small piece of the overall pie, but the ratio is rising. According to Meeker’s report, e-commerce made up approximately 13 percent of overall U.S. retail sales up from 5 percent a decade ago.

Amazon has developed an early lead in the competitive smart speaker, though that advantage appears to be shrinking. Meeker reports an installed base of 30 million Amazon Echo devices in the U.S. And the digital brain powering the speakers, Alexa, has amassed more than 40,000 capabilities.

Audiences are rising rapidly from streaming services, especially from mobile devices. Amazon has 100 million Prime subscribers worldwide, though it is unknown how many use Prime Video. Netflix, Amazon’s main competition in the streaming race, maintains a lead with 125 million subscribers. 

Then there’s Twitch, the game streaming site that Amazon bought for close to a $1 billion in 2014. Since Amazon bought the site, the number of hours spent streaming on Twitch has nearly doubled.

The epic report touches on everything from e-commerce, to smartphone sales, to cloud technology innovations to the nature of work and household spending. It also delves into one of the most contentious issues of the time: immigration.

In her report, Meeker said 56 percent of the highest valued tech companies in the U.S. were founded by immigrants. Uber, WeWork, SpaceX, OfferUp and Instacart are all examples of highly valued private companies with first-generation immigrant founders. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple founder Steve Jobs are both second-generation immigrants, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin are first-generation immigrants.

Here is Meeker’s full report:

Internet Trends Report 2018 by Nat Levy on Scribd

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