11 Unbelievable Advances in Gaming Technology

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Video games have come a long way since they crossed into the mainstream in the 1980s, but some amazing advances in their tech have made the future of gaming even brighter. Here are a few examples.

1. FACIAL RECOGNITION

3D scanning and facial recognition technology allows systems to actually create your likeness in the gaming world (so you can create a custom avatar that looks just like you), or to inventively transfer your own expressions to other digital creations. On top of that, the Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera could allow developers to create games that adapt to the emotions of the gamer by scanning 78 different points on a person’s face. For example, a few grimaces at your game screen means the system would dial down the game’s difficulty instantly.

2. VOICE RECOGNITION

Too lazy to pick up that controller? No problem! Voice controlled gaming has been around for a while, but the potential of using the technology in gaming systems has finally caught up to reality—computers are now able to easily recognize voice commands from the user. Not only can you turn the console on and off using this tech, but you can also use voice commands to control gameplay, interact on social media, play selections from your media library, or search the web, all by simply talking to your gaming system.

3. GESTURE CONTROL

Or, get rid of your controller altogether! Intel RealSense technology allows you to play first person shooter games—or simply interact with your device—with just a few waves of your hand. Using a 3D camera that tracks 22 separate points in your hand, gesture control allows users to connect with their gaming experience by using the natural movements of your body. For example, the game Warrior Wave employs RealSense technology so you can use your hand (the outline of which shows up on the screen) to lead a group of Ancient Greek soldiers to safety.

4. AMAZING GRAPHICS

We’ve come a long way from the days of basic 8-bit graphics in gaming. Cutting edge advancements now allow gamers to experience games in fully rendered worlds with photo realistic textures. The ability to increase playability with higher image quality makes it seem like you’re right inside the game.

5. HIGH-DEF DISPLAYS

With gaming graphics this good, you need to have a bona fide way to show them off. Enter Ultra 4K gaming. Though televisions with 4K capabilities (meaning it must support at least 4,000 pixels) or 4K laptops (like the Intel-powered Lenovo Y50) started out at thousands of dollars, their price points have steadily declined, making this format the eventual standard in the way we watch the games we play. With unbeatable colors and crispness, there’s nothing else that can come close. And you thought 1080p looked good…

6. VIRTUAL REALITY

Though many virtual reality gaming consoles haven’t been commercially released as of yet, those developing VR headset displays are poised to grant gamers a fully immersive gaming experience the likes of which nobody has seen before. You’ll actually be able to lose yourself in the game before you come back to reality.

7. AUGMENTED REALITY

If the virtual world isn’t your thing, why not try out some games in ours? Not confined to a TV or computer monitor, AR games allow for a perspective unique to the gamer. They maneuver spaces within the real world and make the object of the game applicable to real-life situations. For example, play table hockey on your kitchen counter from any angle, or partake in some puzzles mapped out via obstacles in your backyard.

8. WEARABLE GAMING

Whether it’s smartwatches or glasses, wearable games make gaming portable without being too invasive. Companies that started by using wearable technology for fitness applications are now aiming to incorporate entertainment into the mix as well. Wearables aren’t only extensions of your body, but also extensions of the gaming consoles you know and love.

9. MOBILE GAMING

With the advent of smartphones, the gaming experience has been taken out of the arcade and the living room and put into the palm of your hand. As evidenced by the countless people on your morning train commute huddled over games on their devices, mobile technology has made the love of digital gaming spread beyond hardcore console-consumers and online gamers.

10. CLOUD GAMING

Instead of creating video game systems that require more powerful hardware, developers are looking to lighten the load with the cloud. Games no longer need be limited by the amount of memory that discs or consoles have to offer. Using the cloud opens games up to massive server-size limits where images are streamed to your screen through the Internet.

11. ON-DEMAND GAMING

Gamers can already watch and share live-streams of games, but what about playing them? Much like similar movie streaming services, the ability to stream video games is becoming more and more a reality, and it could lead game developers both big and small to compete for gaming glory.

Whether you’re using a 2 in 1 device to take your gaming from your couch to your commute or gesture control to play your games controller-free, innovations from Intel are making the future of gaming a reality. Learn more here.

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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Scope Out the Best Christmas Light Displays in Your Neighborhood With Nextdoor's Cheer Map

can72/iStock via Getty Images
can72/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, driving around the neighborhood to admire the gorgeous light displays (or laugh at the garish ones) is a beloved holiday tradition. But if you live in a big city or only want to check out the most impressive displays, you might not know where to look. That’s where Nextdoor’s Cheer Map comes in.

Nextdoor is a free and private social network that lets you interact with other people in your neighborhood. It’s used in more than 250,000 neighborhoods around the world, and if yours happens to be one of them, you can use the Cheer Map to find the nearest Christmas light displays in your area. The map is crowdsourced and voluntary, so your neighbors can mark their own homes with a holiday lights icon. And if you're eager to flaunt your own festive decorations, you can mark your home on the map, too.

The results will look something like this:

A woman uses Nextdoor's Cheer Map app
Netxtdoor

You can access the Cheer Map online, or via an iPhone or Android device. To get started, click the Cheer Map link, and you’ll be prompted to create a free online account with Nextdoor if you don’t already have one (signing up is quick and easy). Once you’re logged in, a pop-up window will ask whether you plan on decorating for the holidays; select “I will” or “Not this year,” then click "Continue." If you don’t want to participate, you can also select “Skip” to jump ahead to good stuff and access the map of decorated homes in your neighborhood. And that’s it! If you selected “I will,” a colorful light icon will mark your home on the map.

For those who live in small towns, there’s a chance you’ll be the first person in your neighborhood to join the site. Unfortunately, that means your neighborhood won’t be officially “launched” on Nextdoor unless you get nine of your neighbors to sign up. But even if you aren’t able to use the Cheer Map this holiday season, you could help spread the word (and holiday cheer) to get your neighborhood on the map for next year.

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