Features

Driving virtual reality and beyond

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In between breaks covering Paris Games Week this week I take quick power naps.

2015 has been an exciting but exhausting year. So much has happened already, but as the year winds down, there is still a lot of check out, and plenty to write about. Just like in real life, it appears there’s never really any rest in the world of console gaming, and industry leader Sony hopes to keep it that way.

Amidst a sea of oversized blue balloons imprinted with square, circle, x and triangle symbols, I make my way through the throng of gaming fanatics hoping to get some play time with yet to be released titles from next season. There is an electric energy inside the Paris Expo, particularly in and around the Playstation booth. It’s been 20 years since the original Playstation was released, and the festivities today are as much a celebration of that, as much as they are of the games themselves.

Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years this year.

BIG 20. Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years at Paris Games Week 2015.

A mile-long queue has formed in front of the PlayStation VR demos. Slots have been pre-booked days in advance, anyone wanting to give it a shot today is out of luck. Word on the street is that a commercial launch for Sony’s virtual reality headset is slated for the first half of 2016, but there are already several demos you can try today, and with each show the experience gets better.

There’s a preview reel you can look up on YouTube (see clip above) that runs through several upcoming titles that are expected to ship when PlayStation VR does. If there were any doubts about the how virtual reality will change the dynamics of game play, all that should be quashed today.

RIGS mechanized combat league

RIGS mechanized combat league is coming to Playstation VR

One of those new games Rigs: Mechanized Combat League is playable at Paris Games Week (PGW). One of the few multiplayer VR games around, think of Rigs like an extra dirty, extra defensive game of basketball played on machines. The demo for PGW is set in futuristic Dubai, with players on machines with feet that resemble blade runners. While this team sport is akin to basketball, in the game there is no ball, instead actual players must plunge themselves into oversized rings to score. Getting there involves a sometimes perilous journey that includes a fast paced chase through a maze of structures, there’s lots of running, leaping, and head switching.

If there’s anyone who knows more about these games and everything else in the PlayStation pipeline its Shuhei Yoshida, President of Worldwide Studios at Sony Computer Entertainment.   

Shuhei Yoshida

BEST JOB EVER. Shuhei Yoshida is Sony’s Head of Worldwide Gaming Studios.

Appropriate for a man whose main function is to oversee the creation of games, Yoshida is a kid at heart, a superhero character (yep look up Super Time Force Ultra) who spends as much time on his PS Vita as he does on Twitter fielding questions from fans.

At an intimate chat session this week in Paris, a jet lagged Yoshida was glowing from the warm reception for his company’s latest announcements, and bullish about the prospect of PlayStation VR and virtual reality in general. “Because there are so many creative people working on this technology, there will be many great results will come out, and it will be sooner than later,” he said.

For its part Sony is working behind the scenes to push the technology forward, “From a platform standpoint we have the responsibility to show examples of what virtual reality can do. Virtual reality games have to feel natural, you really have to design the game from the ground up.”

For this to happen Yoshida believes, game design has to change. It’s not about repurposing existing titles and slapping on VR support, but about rethinking what works for VR and how VR can enhance the experience.

But virtual reality is not just about gaming.

While gaming has been the logical first application of this new technology, it will soon change the way we consume other types of content. Earlier this month, as part of promotional efforts for the film “The Walk” about high wire artist Philippe Petit who crossed a tight rope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, the PlayStation VR gave fans a feel of how that death defying walk actually felt like.

I’ve experienced vertigo while playing a virtual reality game before, and seeing how VR technology and film making can work in tandem to create entirely new, emotional experiences is mind blowing. Yoshida says these two will merge soon, and at the center of it is the PlayStation – not just a gaming console anymore.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. While VR promises to redefine the gaming landscape. The present, and to a certain degree the future are still all about new titles coming to the world’s most popular gaming console. Earlier this year at the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the gaming word’s biggest stage, I thought I had reached my quota for PS4 announcements, but there are a lot more titles coming.

There’s a game called Super Rude Bear Resurrection from independent Game Developer Alex Rose who tells me, he’s been working on his first PlayStation game with a small team of 3, for just over 8 months now. That game was ready to play at PGW. It’s not hugely popular like those from the usual game houses, but it’s a testament to the breadth of Sony’s developer ecosystem. One that Yoshida tells me his company is going to great lengths to grow and nurture.

Among the marquee titles that I had the chance to preview this week, two upcoming games excite me the most.

Wild for PlayStation 4

WILD. Explore a harsh world where man and beast can become one.

One is called Wild, set in a vast world, beautiful but filled with dangers. It’s an open world game that’s about exploration and survival. Conquering forces of nature and asserting dominance over other animals that live amongst you.   

Unchartered 4 is a much anticipated third-person shooter, and possibly the last in this series. Developer Naughty Dog is calling it the culmination of the franchise, and is upping the anti with a multiplayer mode that ramps up the cinematic experience in glorious 60 frames per second, fights that are faster but longer, and with the added dimension of side-kicks and supernatural power-ups.

But the game that Yoshida is most excited about is called Dreams. Initially I had trouble wrapping my head around what kind of game Dreams is. Its developers aren’t 100% sure either, “We don’t know what it will become,” they say those who participate in the beta will make that clear. Perhaps the confusion is because the game can be about many things, expression and performance, creation and play.

Dreams for PlayStation 4

DREAMS is not just a game, its a platform for creating content.

But more importantly it a platform, a platform for game developers, animators and story tellers. If the game kicks off users will be able to design dream sequences, create mini walk throughs, or develop their own animated short films.

Yoshida has a sparkle in his eye as he talks about his new baby, “Dreams is an amazing project. It’s a serious creation platform for people who like to create. This is your chance to create something amazing.”

The technology behind Dreams is likewise pretty amazing, the game uses a completely new rendering engine, not polygons which is traditionally used to create 3D computers graphics. In and of itself it is a testament to the power behind the PS4, also the reason why this year’s crop of games are more realistic than ever before.

“Next year’s games look amazing,” said Yoshida, “2-3 years after will be even more.”


 “PlayStation: Driving virtual reality and beyond” was first published in The Philippine Star on November 2, 2015. The Philippine Star Technology Section is printed every Monday, and is also available as a digital download from digitaledition.philstar.com

Features

Hanebado!, Ant-Man and the Wasp, BAAM by Momoland: Now Playing

Pop culture overload!

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Since the start of the year, GadgetMatch has been covering major tech events like CES, MWC, Computex, and E3. July is the month wherein the GadgetMatch team finally gets to slow down a bit to relax before the next wave of events comes up. If you’re curious about what we’re up to, here’s what’s now playing for GadgetMatch.

Movies to see

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvin: If you still haven’t moved on from the catastrophic ending of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp should be able to turn those sad tears into tears of laughter. It mimics the original movie in terms of action and character development, yet isn’t afraid to make fun of itself and the superhero genre in general. Like always, be sure to stick around for two scenes during and after the credits. They fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a… dramatic way.

Isle of Dogs
Chay: The long wait is over, Wes Anderson fans. His latest film is his second animated masterpiece, this time set in a dystopian Japan that centers around the search for a dog exiled to Trash Island. Like most, if not all his films, Isle of Dogs is filled with themes of melancholy and disappointment, and sometimes hope, depending on your own interpretation. Whether you watch it for Anderson’s iconic style or your love for dogs, what we have here is a classic that needs to be watched at least more than once in your lifetime.

TV shows to binge watch

Hanebado!
Rodneil: The future is female, and for the first time in recent sports anime history, the main characters are mostly women! Hanebado opens with a riveting badminton sequence between freshman prodigy Ayano Hanesaki and third-year student Nagisa Aragaki. Hanesaki struggles with her desire to play while Aragaki struggles with working hard but still falling short. If you enjoyed titles like Haikyuu!! and Yuri on IceHanebado! is definitely worth checking out.

GLOW
Kevin: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are who you’ll need if you’re looking for a well-written TV series that fuses drama, female empowerment, and the poofy hair of the 80s. It’s about a group of women with different backgrounds but have a common reason to stick it out together. The second season was released last month, and it’s filled with the same gems we loved from the first season.

Music to listen to

BAAM by Momoland
Rodneil: I’m not even gonna lie, this is really more about the visuals for me than the actual music, but as I watched from one version of the music video to another, the song eventually got stuck in my head. It has a nice perk-you-up vibe to it, similar to “Boom Boom” which is the song that propelled Momoland beyond South Korea’s airwaves. In case it’s not obvious, Nancy is my main bias and Yeonwoo is a close second.

Summer Pack by Childish Gambino
Kevin: Just like his This is America track, Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) dropped new tunes out of nowhere late this week. He didn’t only release one, but two fresh originals. Together, they’re called Summer Pack and the two-track release consists of “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer.”

While both have that laid-back, relaxing vibe, “Summertime Magic” has more of a dance approach between the two and would go well on the beach while sipping on Pina Colada. “Feels Like Summer,” on the other hand, makes you want to take a stroll downtown in a convertible and spark a fatty.

Apps to download

InShot
Rodneil: InShot is a mobile video editor available on both Android and iOS. With it, you can splice together clips you have stored in your phone and even choose the aspect ratio, whether it’s 1:1, 16:9, or 9:16. There’s also an option to add effects, text, and music that’s also stored in your phone. It’s a pretty powerful video editing tool on mobile — one that can help jumpstart your IGTV career.

Events to check out

AsiaPop Comicon Manila 2018
MJ: Once again, AsiaPop Comicon is back in Manila from July 27 to 29, 2018, to be held at the SMX Convention Center. Marvel plans to show what’s new in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while Netflix returns to premiere a never-before-seen film. It’s also expected to be bigger and more exciting than last year’s event. Finn Jones from Game of Thrones and Tye Sheridan who appeared on Ready Player One and X-Men as Cyclops, are the major celebrity guests to attend.

Did you like any of our picks or have suggestions of your own? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!


Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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Accessories

Sony XB Series Speakers: His and Hers

Portable speakers for everyone!

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Speakers may be made for parties and fun gatherings, but that’s not always the case. It can also be your best buddy, even during times when you’re not out socializing.

In the fourth installment of His and Hers, I went through a different route. I wanted to show how instrumental music is in our lives. These are the latest additions to Sony’s Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth speakers: the SRS-XB41 and SRS-XB21.

Both speakers have the same features and the only noticeable differences are in terms of size and, of course, the party lights. The SRS-XB41 comes in red with flashing strobes and a changing line light in multiple colors. It’s perfect for guys who like it flashy but don’t mind having a bulky and heavy speaker.

The SRS-XB21, on the other hand, comes in white with lights of the same color. It’s perfect for girls who like something that will fit in their bags — something they can carry wherever they go.


Let your heart sing with art

It’s not every day you get to wake up with a beautiful view. So, when creativity kicks in, bring out your portable speaker and art kit! Roll up your sleeves and paint something in sync with the beat. Next thing you know, you’ve already created something you can be proud of.


Beating the game

Some game nights can be enjoyed when you have a friend by your side. But sometimes, a speaker can be enough of a buddy. Play loud music that pumps you up, makes you smash those buttons, clear the stages, and win!


Pretty by the pool

There are times when stress gets the best of us, so it’s important to find time to relax. Put those sunglasses on and show off that new swimsuit you just bought. This splash-proof speaker is a good companion when lounging by the pool so you can listen to some great summer tunes. Now, go ahead, take a dip, and enjoy this moment.


Playing the right jam

After playing ball, you’ll find yourself trying to recover from a tiring game. Pull out that speaker and play your relaxing tunes. With the Sony Music Center app, you can select your favorite playlists, change the lighting patterns and sound modes, and be in complete control of your music. Be your own DJ when you turn on the live mode; you’ll get a festival vibe that takes your experience to the next level.


Lost in music and words

When the weather’s all cuddly and gloomy, it becomes ideal to stay indoors and have coffee by the bedside table. Pair it up with a good book, like Eat, Pray, Love, and a speaker to play some mellow music that soothes you. That’s the recipe for a perfect day!


Own the night

These wireless speakers remind us to stay connected. Invite your BF or BFF to come over and light up the night. Hand over some wine and unwind from everyday stress.


This episode of His and Hers proved that music is a necessary companion in our lives. It has the power to change a person or a place’s mood, and with the right speakers like Sony’s SRS-XB21 or the SRS-XB41, the moment can be more enjoyable and memorable.

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Features

No more sucking at Starbucks, Android P leaks: Weekend Rewind

Effort for a greener world, new hardware, and leaked software!

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. No more sucking! Starbucks halts the use of plastics straws

In an attempt to help make the planet a greener place, the world-famous coffee shop chain has vowed to go strawless and the world is thankful for this contribution. Replacing the offending cold drink accessory is a specially designed cup cover that’s made of recyclable materials.

This move has already started, with most people finding no straws in their Starbucks orders today. By 2020, the chain aims to eliminate all single-use straws in their shops.

2. Microsoft outs its smallest and most affordable Surface

Microsoft has just announced new hardware under its Surface line of devices. The company veers away from its usual premium offerings and is going for the affordable route this time. The new Surface Go is the most affordable of the bunch — and also the smallest. It is a full-blown Windows 10 tablet aimed at schools, kids, and even the enterprise market.

3. Expect to lose followers on Twitter

Twitter is serious about taking down trolls and fake accounts. The California-based company just announced that it’s removing locked accounts from users’ follower list to avoid suspicious activities like spamming or posting questionable links. The way it works is the company prompts the account owner to verify their account and if not done, they lock said accounts.

Image credit: Apple

4. Apple refreshes its Macbook Pro line

Apple has updated the MacBook Pro line with newer processors, more configuration options, a quieter keyboard design, and True Tone displays. The models feature eight-generation Intel Core processors, although only the top-tier variants and those with Touch Bar get the latest features.

5. Did Huawei accidentally reveal the next Android name?

The news came all the way from Poland. As reported by Polish site Tabletowo, a reader of theirs shared an email thread between the support department of Huawei. Long story short, a representative slipped that Android P would be called Android Pistachio.

Of course, take it with a grain of salt, but it lines up with Bloomberg‘s theory that Google is going for Pistachio Ice Cream for this year’s Android version.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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