Hacked Kinect taught to work as multitouch interface

11 11 2010

We gotta say, the last time we were this excited about hardware hacking For The Greater Good was when people started using the Wiimote for all sorts of awesome projects. Kinect is naturally a lot more complicated, but there’s also a lot of potential here, and we can’t wait to see what people come up with. Florian Echtler took that open source driver and hooked the Kinect into his own multitouch UI “TISCH” software library (which actually supports the Wiimote as an input already, funny enough). The result is a bit of MS Surface-style multitouch picture shuffling and zooming, but it uses full body tracking instead of touchscreen input, of course. The self-effacing Florian had this to say in the video description: “I thought I’d get the mandatory picture-browsing stuff done so it’s out of the way and everybody can focus on more interesting things.” You’re still a hero in our book, man. Always a hero.

Feeling left out on all these Kinect shenanigans because you’re rocking a Mac? Well, libfreenect has also now been ported over to OS X by Theo Watson (who sounds unenthused about his accomplishment in the video embedded after the break). Also: once you’re done admiring your IR-rendered visage on your shiny Apple-built hardware, scrounge yourself up a working Linux box. All the cool people are doing it


Xbox Live Fall 2010 Dashboard Update preview: ESPN, Netflix search, Kinect, and more!

7 10 2010

Shortly before Kinect hits store shelves on November 4th, Microsoft plans on rolling out the Fall Update to Xbox Live — even sooner for those who signed up for the preview program. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, really: even without the numerous leaks, the fall update is a longstanding tradition for the almost five-year-old console, and the company devoted a large chunk of its E3 2010 presentation to talk about the biggest additions. That includes Netflix search (finally!), Zune music, and an entertainment hub for a certain worldwide sports broadcaster… ESPN. We’ve had a chance to spend some time at home with the Fall Update, follow us after the break for our full impressions!

Update: As both Joystiq and a number of tipsters have alerted us, Microsoft has pulled the large, wooden lever in its dark underground lair that allows for the Fall Update to trickle out and assimilate itself into the consoles of those smart enough to sign up for the preview program. If you receive a prompt upon signing in, rejoice! If not, well, have patience!

P.S. – Looking for more? Our BFFs at Joystiq have compiled a series of exhaustive videos chronicling the Fall Update. Check it out!


The biggest change with the Xbox Dashboard, and arguably the biggest since the New Xbox Experience debuted in 2008, is with panel presentation — which is a mixed bag if you ask us. No long do they cascade, providing what was an admittedly obstructed view of six selections; instead, we’re shown three panels in their entirety, with just the subtlest of hints that there’s more to the right or left. It’s much cleaner and panels themselves more aesthetically-pleasing, sure, but to be honest, we thought it was functionally easier to have a hint of what’s further down the menu. Again, though, we can’t say we’re disappointed — after all, navigation feels much snappier. As we saw briefly on the Featured tab (with an advertisement, naturally), Microsoft allows for full-motion video presented even on non-highlighted panels.

Also getting a welcome UI overhaul is the Customize Avatar screen. Your virtual doppelganger now stands front and center as you go through the selection of wares and facial adjustments. There aren’t any surprise features, but navigation does feel much less cumbersome.


As far as new features go, ESPN3 is top of that list. For the cost of Xbox Live Gold and having an affiliated ISP (here’s a list, and not to worry NYCers, Microsoft assures us Time Warner Cable will soon be partnering up), you can watch live sporting events and replays of anything ESPN has the rights to stream — and trust us, that’s a lot. (Don’t have an affiliated ISP? You’ll miss out on the live events and full replays, but all other clips and highlights should still be available.) The initial screen features a crowd of avatars wandering on the bottom, while giant displays serve as the screens for the featured videos. Hovering over one selection for more than a few seconds and the video will autoplay; pressing X will make the video full screen, which you can do immediately at the cost of a brief bout of low-resolution footage as it buffers the HD stream.

More highlights can be found in a menu accessible via the leftmost panel. It’s a setup familiar to Netflix owners: a textual list of categories and a horizontal smorgasbord of related videos. Here’s where we come into some hiccups, however: when we last checked live event replays, there were 241 games in all — not easy to navigate. Microsoft alleviates some of this by adding the My Sports tab, allowing you to select and quickly peruse your favorite ball game, but even then, expect some sifting. We’ve been promised more more integration with ESPN’s online suite — including being able to select specific “My Teams” to follow — some time in the not-too-distant future.

All the video streams in HD using the same variable bitrate technology as Zune video. You’re also given the same controls (pause, fast forward, rewind, etc.) and the portal will remember where you left off in a certain video if you want to jump in and out of a handful at a time. The best part is with live events, being able to rewind to parts you missed even if you tuned in late. Unfortunately there’s no jumping to key moments à la the web browser stream, but like we were told with My Teams, it’s on the proverbial roadmap. At any point during any video, you can press Y to bring up the scores for all current, recent, and upcoming games, sortable by sport, and if it’s on at the moment, you can quickly jump to the game with a press of a button. Again, the repeated mantra here is that there’s potential for more and it’s in the works. That’s not to downplay anything that’s being offered out the gate; what we have hear is pretty impressive for sports fans, if for nothing else as a great way to stream matches from your living room set without having to invest in a cable TV.


Netflix has been an enduring staple to the Xbox 360’s entertainment side, and for a long time one of the biggest non-gaming reasons to pick up the console. The only problem was that you still needed another device altogether to explore the library, as the software limited you to a pre-selected array of films (organized by category) and what was already added to your Instant Watch queue. Thankfully that’s all been changed with this update. In addition to eschewing cascading navigation in favor of something on the same plane of depth (notice a trend here?), search has now has been added. It works well, opting for a line of letters instead the classic Xbox 360 virtual keyboard, and the results update with each letter added. If a selection isn’t available to watch instantly, it’ll still show up on the list as “DVD Only” and offer suggestions to similar titles. Needless to say, this still remains one of the best Netflix experiences out there.

Zune music

Zune video got a handful of UI tweaks — its selection menu for video is thankfully much more streamlined — but newcomer here is music and Zune Pass. Unsurprisingly, it works similar to Zune video and most other entertainment panels, as far as navigation is concerned. Search presents you with multiple separate panels for results that updating with each additional letter: artist, song, album, playlist. The artist page sorts songs by album and individual popularity, and even provides bios with hotlinks to other artists, a nice little touch. All the Zune functionality you’d expect is here, including Smart DJ. Pick an artist as a jumping off point and adjust the playlist according to your likes. The program itself works great; whether or not you want to devote your TV to streaming music is entirely your call, but at least the option’s there.


Screen from E3 2010

We didn’t get a chance to bring Kinect home to give it a spin (no beta for us, we’re afraid), but Microsoft did invite us to its offices to try it in studio. By and large, though, it’s what we saw back at E3 with some refinements — and yes, it does work while sitting down. If you’re calibrated to your profile, walking in front of the Kinect camera will automatically sign you in (if no one else is already). Waving your hand will engage the gestures, swiping from one side to the other will navigating through the special panels (so long as you connect the hand cursor to the proper arrow icon ahead of time), and you still have to hover on a panel for multiple seconds to select certain items. That part seemed quicker than before, but it’s still a hassle compared to quickly moving through via a controller. Voice commands are again limited to select options, and it’ll prompt you on what does and doesn’t work. Using your hand to grab and fine-tune where in a video you are is still a nice touch, but really, this is just an alternate method for navigation. Great for novelty’s sake or if you can’t find the remote / are out of batteries, but we’re still a ways off from Minority Report.



We hate to use the revolution vs. evolution analogy here, but that’s exactly what the new dashboard is: an evolution of the New Xbox Experience. Aesthetic revisions and impending Kinect integration notwithstanding, the big takeaway from this update is a vastly improved Netflix and a strong debut for ESPN, which really is going to make some people rethink their cable TV subscription. Sure, it’s mandatory, but don’t worry, it’s pretty much an improvement in every way imaginable — unless, of course, you like cascading panels.

3D Blu-ray on the PS3: it works!

17 09 2010
3D Blu-ray on the PS3: it works! (video)

We’ve been waiting for 3D Blu-ray support to hit the PS3 for a good long while now, and Sony‘s been promising it would happen for, well, exactly that same amount of time. Yesterday the company confirmed that the 3D-enabling 3.50 firmware update is less than a week away, dropping on September 21, and here’s proof that it works: a demonstration unit up and running at TGS.

PS3 jailbroken with… a TI-84 Plus calculator

11 09 2010
Sure, you can jailbreak a PS3 using a USB drive, or even a Palm Pre or Nokia N900 — but isn’t that a little too straightforward? Jailbreaking a PS3 with a TI-84 Plus calculator, on the other hand; well, that’s more like it. Still skeptical? Head on past the break for the video evidence, and hit up the source link below for the necessary details to perform the feat yourself. And don’t worry — no calculators were harmed in the making of this exploit.

Best Buy and Target announce video game trade-in programs, clearly don’t read webcomics

27 08 2010

For some reason the used-video-games-as-controversy stars have aligned, and Best Buy and Target picked now of all times to announce new used game trade-in programs. Target is going to offer in store credit for all sorts of electronics trade-ins, including games and DVDs, with just a few stores for now, but expanding to 850 stores by the end of the year. Target isn’t making any mention of reselling that stuff just yet, but Best Buy plans to start selling used games “soon,” on top of the 600 stores it’s launching it own trade-in program in this week. What’s so special about all this? Well, THQ CEO Cory Ledesma just made headlines for a bit of a rant about the topic (“We hope people understand that when the game’s bought used we get cheated”), and then Penny Arcade weighed in with a comic, as is their wont, which kicked off a bit of a gamer vs. publisher vs. retailer internet battle of the words. Which is our favorite kind. With online distribution, one time unlock codes, and DLC all warring to make used games obsolete, this debate might be moot in a few years time, but for now there’s no shortage of opinions on the subject, and we’d love to hear yours in the comments!

Show full PR text
Best Buy® Now Ready to Take Your Old Video Games

Trade-In Program Now Live in Stores Nationwide

Receive an Additional $20 Best Buy Gift Card on Select Titles

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Gaming enthusiasts nationwide now have more reasons to shop Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) as their gaming destination. Launching in close to 600 Best Buy stores this week, with additional stores to soon follow, the new Best Buy Trade-In program offers customers an opportunity to sell pre-owned video games. To celebrate the new offering, customers who trade in their games beginning this Sunday, August 29, will receive an additional $20 Best Buy Gift Card on top of the trade-in value on more than 100 popular titles.

“The expansion of our trade-in program reaffirms our commitment to consistently pursue new ways to bring a better gaming experience to consumers,” said Chris Homeister, senior vice president and general manager for the home entertainment group at Best Buy. “Fall marks the launch of several highly-anticipated gaming titles and new technology, and we’re thrilled to provide gamers with innovative ways to connect with the games they love.”

Consumers can now bring their previously played video games into Best Buy and trade them for an instant Best Buy gift card to use for purchasing anything in the store, including any game or gaming accessory. Soon, they will be able to purchase a pre-owned game as well.

Those who take advantage of the new Trade-In program in store can visit the Customer Service desk, or in select locations a dedicated Trade-In desk within the gaming department, to turn in their games. Best Buy will continue to offer a similar program online at BestBuy.com that enables customers to get estimates for their games, mail them in for free and receive a Best Buy gift card 7-14 days later. Trade-In prices in-store will match the prices shown online.

For more information on Trade-In at Best Buy and to locate a store currently participating in the program, visit http://www.bestbuy.com/gametradein. Stay connected to Best Buy Gaming via Twitter and Facebook at Twitter.com/RZGamersClub and Facebook.com/BestBuyGaming.

About Best Buy Co., Inc.

With operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Mexico and Turkey, Best Buy is a multinational retailer of technology and entertainment products and services with a commitment to growth and innovation. The Best Buy family of brands and partnerships collectively generates more than $49 billion in annual revenue and includes brands such as Best Buy; Best Buy Mobile; Audiovisions; The Carphone Warehouse; Future Shop; Geek Squad, Jiangsu Five Star; Magnolia Audio Video; Napster; Pacific Sales; and The Phone House. Approximately 180,000 employees apply their talents to help bring the benefits of these brands to life for customers through retail locations, multiple call centers and Web sites, in-home solutions, product delivery and activities in our communities. Community partnership is central to the way we do business at Best Buy. In fiscal 2010, we donated a combined $25.2 million to improve the vitality of the communities where our employees and customers live and work.

For more information about Best Buy, visit http://www.bby.com

Show full PR text
Target Launches New Electronics Services That Offer Exceptional Tech and Mobile Experience
1-877-myTGTtech, Target Mobile and Target Electronics Trade-In Provide Guests Additional Value

MINNEAPOLIS (August 25, 2010) – Today Target® announced three new consumer electronics services that will provide guests with an enhanced shopping experience both in-store and at home – 1-877-myTGTtech, Target Mobile and Target Electronics Trade-In. 1-877- myTGTtech is a free product support hotline for all Target electronics purchases. Target Mobile offers a convenient in-store and online cellular shopping experience. Target Electronics Trade-In will allow guests to receive credit towards any Target purchase by turning in their new or used video games, mobile phones and iPods.

“Our goal is to create the best and easiest shopping experience for our guests. As we continue to grow and enhance our consumer electronics business, we designed 1-877-myTGTtech to assist guests with any questions and technical support on their electronics purchases,” said Mark Schindele, senior vice president, Target. “Target Electronics Trade-In offers our guests an opportunity to upgrade their consumer electronics items for less and Target Mobile ensures a convenient cell phone shopping experience.”

These new services complement and add to Target’s nationwide TV delivery and installation service introduced in January and the recently completed electronics and video game department reinvention. By providing guests with additional value at the time of purchase as well as after their purchases are taken home, demonstrates Target’s commitment to offering a best-in-class electronics shopping experience. 1-877-myTGTtech is available to guests nationwide and Target Mobile and Target Electronics Trade-In will roll out in select markets this month. By December 2010 Target Mobile and Target Electronics Trade-in will be available in approximately 850 stores and will become available nationwide through 2011.

To offer guests a superior consumer electronics shopping experience and peace of mind, Target has rolled out 1-877-myTGTtech, a no-charge technical support hotline for all Target store consumer electronic purchases as well as pre-purchase questions. The service will assist consumers with questions they have about their consumer electronics purchases from televisions and video game consoles to cameras, camcorders, iPods and MP3 players. Target guests can speak to a LIVE customer service representative for troubleshooting and technical support at 1-877-myTGTtech (1-877-698-4883). Guests can also use 1-877-myTGTtech for assistance in obtaining manufactures warranty information, product compatibility specifications and other technical functionality questions for current or past Target electronics purchases.

Target Mobile
Target Mobile helps guests make the most of their dollars and time, with a convenient and simplified cell phone shopping experience both in-store and online. This summer Target is expanding the number of stores offering full-service mobile phone centers as an added convenience to guests. The Target Mobile centers, a partnership with RadioShack, are in-store wireless shopping stations that enable Target guests to purchase mobile phones and activate contracts from the nation’s top carriers. The centers will be available in approximately 850 stores by the end of the year and in the majority of Target stores nationwide by mid-2011.

Drawing on the combined expertise of Target and RadioShack, the centers will offer a selection of the best mobile handsets and accessories including headsets, cases, and chargers, as well as service plans from the nation’s top carriers – all at competitive prices. In-store activation will ensure that guests walk away with everything they need from their new mobile devices.

Guests nationwide can also take advantage of Target Mobile via the online site, (http://www.targetmobilestore.com), from the comfort of their home. The online cell phone shopping solution provides a convenient and affordable cell-phone purchasing option at competitive prices. With just a few mouse clicks, guests can shop for the latest devices including popular Android-powered smartphones from top manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, LG and choose wireless plans from every major U.S. service provider. Guests will even have access to special online-only wireless promotions. Target.com has enlisted Simplexity, the leader in online cell phone activations, to build and manage the Target-branded site. Utilizing Simplexity’s fully integrated ecommerce platform, Target’s online mobile store offers a greater selection of cell phones, free FedEx shipping on every wireless purchase, easy at home activations and great values on wireless accessories.

Target Electronics Trade-In
Target Electronics Trade-In encourages guests to be eco-friendly by trading in old electronics devices and in return guests will receive credit towards any Target purchase. Guests can bring their new or used iPhones, iPods, cell phones and video games into stores that feature Target Mobile centers and receive credit good for any purchase at Target. Guests can simply bring their item to the Target Mobile counter for appraisal, decide if they want to trade in the item and receive credit that can be used instantly at Target. Guests can receive amounts from a few dollars up to more than $200 per item depending on the product and its condition. The in-store program will launch in Northern California on August 24, will rollout to additional stores in September and will be available in approximately 850 stores by the end of the year.

In addition to the new in-store Target Electronics Trade-In program, guests can also trade in used electronics and DVDs at Target.com in exchange for a Target GiftCard. Target.com has partnered with NextWorth to offer guests a simple way to recycle their electronics from the comfort of their own home.

About Target
Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) serves guests at 1,743 stores in 49 states nationwide and at Target.com. Target is committed to providing a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to unique and highly differentiated products at affordable prices. Since 1946, the corporation has given 5 percent of its income through community grants and programs like Take Charge of Education. Today, that giving equals more than $3 million a week. For more information about Target’s commitment to corporate responsibility, visit Target.com/hereforgood.

Note: Target welcomes the media to its stores. To contact your local store about shooting b-roll or photos, please visit “Find a Store” at http://www.Target.com and contact the Leader on Duty directly to request a visit or interview. You also may visit our online pressroom at http://www.Target.com/Pressroom to access product information, photos and more.


Microsoft set to up bit rate on Xbox Live voice comms, pwners everywhere rejoice

27 08 2010

This might not be as sexy as its recent physical redesign, but the Xbox 360 is about to take what might be a major leap forward for many gamers. The console’s voice chat codec is going to be tweaked in an upcoming system update to allow a higher bit rate, and consequently better audio, through. Originally put together to run on 64k internet connections with the original Xbox, the codec’s finally catching up with our broadband times and should see itself renewed some time this fall, potentially alongside the retail launch of Kinect. Great, now when 12-year old kids destroy us in Halo, we’ll be able to hear their high-pitched gloating with crystal clarity.


German designer brings Wipeout racing game to life, burns up cardboard tracks with an R/C car

5 08 2010

The intersection of video games and real life is a fantastic place to play, as evidenced by Roombas, Halo and the occasional six-string guitar, but all you really need to blur reality is a webcam, an R/C car and a studio filled with cardboard. That’s what Malte Jehmlich and company used to create this rendition of Wipeout, which moves practically as fast as the PlayStation original due to the blinding scale speed of its 1/28 model cars. It’s all controlled by an arcade racing cabinet complete with steering wheel and on-screen display wirelessly connected to an Arduino board. Originally a two-month hobby project, the designers are presently working towards an advanced version with force feedback and powerups (including boost!) using sensors built right into the track — and hopefully a forklift to lug all that corrugated wood pulp around.