Monday, June 21, 2010

Dolby Axon Will Change the Way We Yell at Gamers Online

Dolby Axon Voice ChatXbox Live may have brought in–game voice communication to the masses but voice chatting with your friends and opponents during a deathmatch or raid isn't anything new for PC Gamers. Some of the most popular VOIP solutions for PC gamers are Ventrilo and Teamspeak, programs you've undoubtedly heard of if you've ever needed to speak with a fellow gamer online while using a computer. Other lesser known options are Skype, which is popular for smaller and more personal discussions, and Mumble, which uses a more up-to-date codec and minimizes latency. Both of which have been steadily gaining headway in the VOIP scene. However, a few people are catching on to this new kid on the block known as Dolby Axon, which promises to revolutionize the way we talk to and interact with each other in-game.

With this new technology your voice is intended to be integrated into the game itself rather than being simply played over the top of it like with most contemporary voice communication software. For example, as your teammates move around you so will the direction their voices come from. If there is a teammate directly to your right calling out enemy fire ahead, you will hear your teammates voice to your right without any distortion to the in-game gunfire coming directly in front of you. In addition, in-game obstacles like walls and buildings will muffle and drown out the voices of your teammates. Dolby also has some innovative ideas with the technology including spy microphones, the ability to hear through walls, throwing your voice, and more.

Right now the technology is confirmed to ship with Jumpgate Evolution, an online space combat simulator, and Mission Against Terror, an online FPS title. Dolby is also hoping that console game developers will embrace the technology, which would allow console gamers to have their voices mapped to the game environment in the same ways its currently being used on the PC. The ability to keenly flow through conversation in a group and knowing where people are by the sound of their voice, coupled with direct sound to game interactions should add much to the game experience. In addition Dolby assures us that any headset and microphone combination will work perfectly with the technology and lower level system owners can breathe a sigh of relief, Dolby has considered you as well.

Read all about Dolby Axon on their site.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

If Google told you to walk into traffic, would you do it?

Look Mom! No sidewalks.Do you ever wonder why absolutely everything has warning labels and liability clauses attached to them? Warnings like "Do not use while sleeping" on hair dryers are absolutely needed because many people today exhibit an exuberant lack of common sense.

Take Lauren Rosenberg for example, who innocently enough used Google Maps on her Blackberry to get walking directions from one part of her Utah town to another. Google provided these, telling her as part of the route to walk for about 2 miles along the serenely-named “Deer Valley Drive.” However, that is simply an alternate name for the short section of road which is actually Utah State Route 224, which as you can imagine, isn't a place for people to be taking a daytime stroll. Instead of finding an alternate route or walking safely back to her home, Rosenberg decided that Google knows best and meandered onto the highway which had no sidewalk or pedestrian paths.

Surprise! She was hit by a vehicle and is now suing Google for her medical expenses ($100,000), as well as punitive damages. She is also suing the driver who struck her, Patrick Harwood of Park City, Utah. Here's an excerpt from Rosenburg's complaint filing.

"As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google’s careless, reckless and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle, causing her to suffer sever permanent physical, emotional, and mental injuries, including pain and suffering."

If you do a walking directions search from a laptop or computer on Google, you get one of those hair dryer warnings:

"Walking directions are in beta. Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."

Even Microsoft's Bing has a similar warning when using their walking directions:

"Caution, this route may be missing sidewalks or other pedestrian paths."

The problem with Rosenburg was that she was using a blackberry screen which only has a limited amount of space. If Google were to put any kind of warning on her screen, where would there be room for a map and directions? It seems Google has learned its lesson not to put faith in the common sense of the people. Not walking out into a busy street was a skill I learned in Pre-School.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Video Gamers aka Dream Controlling Masters

Video Gamer and his DreamsA study suggests that playing video games before bedtime may give gamers a higher level of awareness and control in their dreams giving them a better chance to have a lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is simply being aware you are dreaming, while dreaming, and being able to influence that dream in one way or another. Lucid dreams usually occur while a person is in the middle of a regular dream and suddenly realizes that he or she is asleep and must be dreaming. The person is then said to become "lucid", and may enter one of many different levels of lucidity. At the lowest level, the dreamer may be dimly aware that he or she is dreaming, but not rationally enough so as to realize that all events, people, or actions in the dream are not real. At the highest level, the dreamer is fully aware that she or he is asleep, and can have complete control over all aspects of the dream.

Gamers and Dreams

While gaming at night might not give you the ability to alternate the reality of your dream worlds in the same fashion as "The Matrix", it could however give your mind an edge when facing nightmares and other mental trauma in the every day world. According to Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, dreams and video games both represent alternate realities which are commonly used by the mind to mimic threatening situations in a safe environment. In fact, several intriguing parallels between lucid dreamers and video gamers have emerged since Gackenbach began her research on video games and how they affect dreams.

The two groups are both capable of demonstrating high levels of focus and concentration, whether that be through lucid-training activities such as meditation and reality checks, or through hours spent mastering virtual worlds and combating countless enemies. In addition both lucid dreamers and gamers seemed to have better spatial skills and were less prone to motion sickness. These findings encouraged Gackenbach to survey the dreams of both non-gamers and hardcore gamers, beginning with two separate studies published in 2006.

The first study suggested that people who frequently played video games were more likely to report lucid dreams and dream control, or the ability to directly influence their dream environment. A second study attempted to narrow down several uncertainties of the first experiment by examining dreams that participants experienced from the night before and by focusing more intently on the dreams of gamers.

This study found that lucid dreams were common among gamers, but that they never had dream control over anything beyond their dream selves. In other words gamers are greatly capable of controlling their own actions in dreams, but are not very capable of altering their dream environments. The gamers also frequently flipped between a first person view from within their body and a third person view of themselves from the outside. This third person perspective was very rarely described as a calm detachment of somebody simply watching. These are very peculiar qualities in dreams which may stem from constantly watching and controlling the actions of a video-game character.

Viewing the Nightmare World in the Eyes of a Gamer

As mentioned before, dreams mimic threatening situations from real life in the safe environment of the dream world. Such nightmares would help organisms hone their survival skills in a protective environment. To test this theory, Gackenbach conducted a 2008 study with 35 males and 63 females, and assessed the threat levels experienced by the dreamers in their sleeping world. She found that gamers experienced less or even a reversed threat simulation in which the dreamer themselves had become the threatening presence. She also noted less aggression overall towards the dreamer, yet aggression in the gamer towards the dream often culminated in violence not unlike that seen in mature rated video games. In other words, a scary nightmare scenario turned into something fun for a gamer.

"What happens with gamers is something inexplicable," Gackenbach explained. "They don't run away, they turn and fight back. They're more aggressive than the norms. If you look at the actual overall amount of aggression, gamers have less aggression in dreams, but when they are aggressive, oh boy, they go off the top."

It appears indeed that video gamers are the undisputed masters of their dreams.