Google’s self-driving cars still face many obstacles >> MIT Technology Review
Mistakes on maps could be dangerous, because there are some objects, like traffic signals and intersection stop signs, that the car needs the maps to handle, even though it also has several on-board sensors. If it encountered an unmapped traffic light, and there were no cars or pedestrians around, the car could run a red light simply because it wouldn’t know the light is there.
Alberto Broggi, a professor studying autonomous driving at Italy’s Università di Parma, says he worries about how a map-dependent system like Google’s will respond if a route has seen changes like the addition of a new stop sign at an intersection.
Urmson says the company had a strategy to handle the updating issue, but he declines to describe it in any detail.
Some experts are bothered by Google’s refusal to provide that sort of safety-related information. Michael Wagner, a Carnegie Mellon robotics researcher studying the transition to autonomous driving, says the public “has a right to be concerned” about Google’s reticence: “This is a very early-stage technology, which makes asking these kinds of questions all the more justified.”
Certain aspects of the car’s design do not seem to be widely appreciated. For example, Bernard Soriano, the California DMV official responsible for autonomous vehicles in the state, was unaware that the car couldn’t handle unmapped intersection stop signs, despite numerous briefings from Google. When told about the limitation by MIT Technology Review, he said he would be seeking a “clarification” about the issue from Google.
“Unmapped stop signs” could also include stop/go signs or temporary traffic lights (around roadworks).
Motherboard price competition expands to Europe >> Digitimes
The fierce price competition between Asustek Computer and Gigabyte Technology has recently expanded to Europe as demand in China is falling short of expectations and is putting strong pressure on ASRock and Micro-Star International (MSI), which have a large proportion of their shipments coming from Europe, according to sources from motherboard players.
With overall motherboard demand dropping and Asustek and Gigabyte still expected to ship over 20m units in 2014, small players, which are not able to survive the price war, are expected to be eliminated from the market.
Any time IDC or Gartner says PC sales are falling, there are some who say that all that’s happening is that “finished PC” sales are being replaced by “build your own” PC parts sales. This puts some context to them (total finished PC sales are expected to be about 303.5m in 2014). Of course, a proportion (unknown) of motherboards will go for replacement/repair of existing PCs. Notable too that Digitimes says that “overall motherboard demand” is dropping – which suggests that “build your own” isn’t expanding.
In fact, according to a Taiwanese research company, “the worldwide motherboard shipment volume in 2013 reached approximately 143.2m units, down 2.8% year on year.”
The End of Gamers >> Dan Golding
When, over the last decade, the playing of videogames moved beyond the niche, the gamer identity remained fairly uniformly stagnant and immobile. Gamer identity was simply not fluid enough to apply to a broad spectrum of people. It could not meaningfully contain, for example, Candy Crush players, Proteus players, and Call of Duty players simultaneously. When videogames changed, the gamer identity did not stretch, and so it has been broken.
And lest you think that I’m exaggerating about the irrelevance of the traditionally male dominated gamer identity, recent news confirms this, with adult women outnumbering teenage boys in game-playing demographics in the USA. Similar numbers also often come out of Australian surveys. The predictable ‘what kind of games do they really play, though—are they really gamers?’ response says all you need to know about this ongoing demographic shift.
Golding’s starting point is the ongoing misogyny around women who play, write or analyse games. See also Andrew Todd’s article below. Something is going very wrong. (Via Mary Hamilton.)
Sliding rocks on Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park: first observation of rocks in motion >> PLOS One
In contrast with previous hypotheses of powerful winds or thick ice floating rocks off the playa surface, the process of rock movement that we have observed occurs when the thin, 3 to 6 mm, “windowpane” ice sheet covering the playa pool begins to melt in late morning sun and breaks up under light winds of ~4–5 m/s. Floating ice panels 10 s of meters in size push multiple rocks at low speeds of 2–5 m/min. along trajectories determined by the direction and velocity of the wind as well as that of the water flowing under the ice.
Included simply because it’s such a fascinating phenomenon.
Video games, misogyny, and terrorism: a guide to assholes >> Badass Digest
Andrew Todd on video gaming’s problem with women:
I have a friend who plays a lot of Call of Duty. He’s a brilliant comedian whose name you’ll probably know in the future, though I won’t mention it here. One of his favourite aspects of the game is verbally abusing other players – he LOVES it. It’s another game within a game. But it doesn’t matter if you’re the funniest or cleverest abusive dick on a server – you’re still being an abusive dick, and you’re still perpetuating a problem that has visibly grown way past that comparatively innocent context and into actual terrorism.
There’s no reputable research that states violent video games create violent video gamers, but I’d be curious to see whether they create abusive ones. At this point, abuse and harassment are as ingrained into gamer culture as headshots and killstreaks – but the difference between the two is that while the violence is fake, the abuse is real.
This is an intriguing suggestion that seems worth pursuing. The focus though of Todd’s piece is rampant misogyny:
The ultimate, hilarious irony to these douchebags’ worldview is that they claim to want gaming to be taken seriously. In their blinkered eyes, women are ruining gaming, because in their blinkered eyes, change that benefits anyone other than them is inherently bad. But feminist criticism can only be a boon to the games industry.
Wearable device now, iWatch later >> AAPL Orchard
Apple may view the wearables category as requiring training wheels as consumers may not understand or connect with a full blown “iWatch” right out of the gate, so an in-between wearable device would be required to make the learning curve more manageable. For example, an iPad introduced in 2005 probably would not have done as well since people wouldn’t have been familiar with a touch interface – not to mention the lack of an app ecosystem. It is possible Apple will initially sell a wearable device similar to a fitness band, but focused on the much broader and mainstream subject of health, only to expand the lineup in subsequent years with various editions, price points, and styles. I have a growing suspicion that Apple’s wearables category will not be comprised of just one or two models but an array of devices as wearables will usher the era of fashion into personal technology. Apple’s recent retail hires support my thesis that a new way of thinking is required to sell a range (maybe up to dozens?) of wrist devices.
Contrast with Google’s full-on approach – Google Glass hyped ahead of any release to the public (even beta testers) and again with Android Wear, shown through “concept videos” ahead of the availability of any product.
iPhone 1 vs Intex Cloud FX: is the £20 smartphone modelled on the original iPhone? >> Phone Cruncher
The Intex Cloud FX aims to bring base level smartphone functionality to the millions of Indian mobile phone users stuck on feature phones.
But what was interesting when looking at the detailed technical specifications of the Intex Cloud FX was how similar they were to those of the original Apple iPhone launched back in 2007.
For instance, both phones boast of 128MB of onboard RAM and sport 3.5-inch capacitive touch screens. The resolution of the two displays is identical at 320 by 480px and the actual dimensions of the phone cases match almost to the millimetre.
Acute observation. The Intex Cloud FX is Mozilla’s Firefox OS phone.
First 64-bit Android phone has no 64-bit software >> Ars Technica
While the chip is 64-bit, the HTC Desire 510 doesn’t actually run any 64-bit software — it runs Android 4.4, a 32-bit OS. The hardware is ready, but the rest of the Android ecosystem still needs to catch up. The first version of Android to support 64-bit apps will be Android L, which is due out sometime this year. Hopefully HTC takes advantage of its forward-looking hardware and updates the OS.
When full 64-bit support does come, it won’t just be about more memory; the ARMv8 instruction set that comes with the new architecture also offers a performance boost. In the iPhone 5S, 64-bit ARMv8 CPU benchmarks run about 30% faster than 32-bit ARMv7 benchmarks on the same hardware.
Use of sapphire in smartphones may take off in 2015, say Taiwan makers >> Digitimes
Following the use of sapphire to make covers for the home button and camera of the iPhone 5, China- and South Korea-based smartphone vendors are considering the adoption of sapphire, and therefore the application in smartphones is likely to take off in 2015, according to Taiwan-based sapphire makers.
LG Electronics has also adopted sapphire for covers of smartphone cameras and China-based smartphone vendors ZTE, Huawei Device and Xiaomi Technology as well as Samsung Electronics are very likely to follow suit, the sources said.