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Author Archives: Evan Ackerman

GDC: Power Gig Music Game Features Real Guitar Controller


By Evan Ackerman

Guitar Hero and Rock Band are fun games, but after you master them, you’re left with little more than a staggeringly useless talent for pushing little plastic buttons. Game developer Seven45 Studios is aiming to change all that by partnering up with instrument manufacturer First Act to create a music game for the Xbox 360 and PS3 that uses a real, playable six string guitar as a controller. Plug it into a console, and it’s a control. Plug it into an amp, and it’s a guitar.

The game is called Power Gig: Rise of the SixString. I got a brief demo at GDC yesterday, and while they wouldn’t discuss the game itself in a ton of detail, we did get a good look at the hardware. The big draw, of course, is that it’s a real guitar that you get to play with. The only difference between the controller and a normal guitar are the additional buttons on the body (to duplicate the full functionality of a game controller) and a special string dampener that pops up to keep the strings from vibrating too much when you’re playing the game, since it would confuse the sensors. Otherwise, all of the clever stuff is internal, and the guitar can sense both string movement and finger position.

Seven45 stresses that this is not an education game: it’s not designed to teach you how to play the guitar. That said, as you get comfortable with the game, you do slowly learn the fundamentals of playing the instrument, and as you crank up the difficulty, the game will demand more real world skill from you. And it’s not just about playing the guitar, either: the game is somehow adventure based, and part of the storyline includes teaching you how to tune yourself and change your own guitar strings (spare strings will be included).

There are a lot of things still to be finalized, including song content, but as far as pricing and availability goes, look for Power Gig sometime this fall at a price that will be “competitive with other game band packages.” If the gameplay stands up to similar titles as well, the choice is going to be an easy one: why get a game that includes a fake guitar and teaches you to push plastic buttons, when you could get a game that includes a real guitar and teaches you how to play it, instead.

[ Power Gig ]

MSI Wind U160 Now Available


By Evan Ackerman

My favorite netbook company, MSI, has just announced the retail availability of their latest and greatest extra portable and extra cheap laptops: the Wind U160. Besides a redesigned svelte exterior, the U160 brings along a 1.66 GHz Atom N450 and a shocking 15 hours of battery life. Even if you figure that you’ll only get 50% of that in normal use (which, in my experience, is what it works out to most of the time), that’s still a solid day’s worth of juice. The rest of the specs are what you’ve come to know and tolerate from netbooks, including the gig of ram, 250gb HD, LED backlit WSVGA screen, crappy integrated graphics, and blah blah blah. Oh, and Windows 7.

On a personal note, the only reason I’m not buying myself a U160 is that my U100 is still running like a champ after a couple years and multiple oopsies. I can only hope that the U160 offers a similar amount of dependability (plus relatively easy access to the HD and RAM) in this new form factor.

The MSI Wind U160 is available now at Fry’s, and online at and Newegg, for $380.

[ MSI Wind U160 ]

Nokia Patents Self-Charging Phone, Won’t Work For Lazy People


By Evan Ackerman

At the end of last month, Nokia filed a patent for a “piezoelectric kinetic energy harvester” for mobile phones. If they get it to work, it will enable mobile phones to charge themselves. Brillliant! Why didn’t I think of that?

I’ll tell you why I didn’t think of that. It’s because a “piezoelectric kinetic energy harvester” works by generating electricity from crystals which are compressed by movement. So, the catch is (of course there’s a catch), you have to be moving for the phone to charge. As in, not sedentary in front of the computer. This means that people like me will have dead cell phones 99% of the time, with the remaining 1% of uptime due to bedroom to bathroom transitions plus trips to the fridge. Maybe I’ll just strap it to my cat and bust out the laser pointer for a few hours, that should do the trick.

Cat or no cat, it’s always good to see big companies trying to innovate when it comes to green energy and infinite phone calls. Or at least, it’s good to see them take the first tentative steps in the form of a patent.

[ Nokia Patent ] VIA [ New Scientist ]

Personal Jetpack Going Into Production, May Actually Be Affordable


By Evan Ackerman

When we posted our last update on the Martin Jetpack Ductedfanpack about a year ago, they were looking at producing around 10 units at $100,000 each. In that quantity and price, it didn’t seem like something that was particularly realistic. At the end of last month the Telegraph reported that Martin Aircraft Company had teamed up with an unnamed international aircraft company, and that the new partnership had secured enough capital to begin producing 500 jetpacks a year at a cost of around $75,000 each. Yes, it’s a lot, but come on, it’s a personal jetpack, and it may actually be a practical one too:

-No pilot’s license required
-Runs on premium gas from a gas station
-30 mile range at 60 mph, 8000 ft ceiling
-Includes low altitude ballistic parachute for safety

It’s certainly not the sexy sci-fi jetpack of the future yet, but I mean, it works, and you can actually buy one (quite soon, anyway) for a not entirely crazy amount of money.

[ Martin Jetpack ] VIA [ Telegraph ]

New Casio G-Shock Watch May Induce Headache, Nausea


By Evan Ackerman

There are watches that are kinda ugly. You know, like, you probably wouldn’t buy one ugly. Then there are watches that are really ugly, as in, you wouldn’t wear one if someone gave it to you for free. And then there are watches like the newest Casio G-Shock, which are so ugly that even looking at them can cause physical pain. Apparently, this watch is called MAN BOX; feel free to amuse yourself trying to figure out why that is. And when you’re done with that, you can start pondering just who would be crazy enough to spend $225 on one of these.

Available in Japan.

VIA [ Akihabara News ]

Hydro Floors Disappearing Swimming Pool

By Evan Ackerman

There’s one reason I don’t have a hypothetical swimming pool in my apartment, and it’s this: it would take up all the room I need for my hypothetical badminton court. Hydro Floors has solved my hypothetical problem IRL with a swimming pool that completely disappears, giving you a solid floor to work with when you want one. The swimming pool (water and all) is still there, there’s just a floor (which is sometimes the floor of the swimming pool) on top of it. In addition to providing space for your badminton court, this also cuts down on heating costs by keeping the water insulated when you’re not in it.

Only problem is, I can’t buy one of these with all of the hypothetical money I have saved up. The website doesn’t say how much a Hydro Floor costs, but figure on absurdly expensive. So realistically, the only people who will likely buying these are evil geniuses looking for an absurdly slow death machine.

[ Hydro Floors ] VIA [ NotCot ]

Infinitec “Infinite” USB Drive Isn’t Really


By Evan Ackerman

Infinitec is introducing what they’re calling the “next generation” of USB flash drives, the Infinite USB Memory (IUM) drive. Rather than storing data on internal flash memory, the IUM pairs with your computer, forming a wireless data transfer link. So, whatever device you plug the IUM into sees it as simple USB flash drive, while behind the scenes the IUM is streaming data directly from your computer, making available as much data as you care to give it, hence the “infinite” moniker. This isn’t some kind of infinite cloud storage thing, however, it’s just that the capacity of the IUM isn’t limited by the hardware on the IUM itself.

I can’t immediately figure out how the wireless bit works, but it’s going to be one of two ways. The first, which seems most likely from the way the IUM is described, is that it uses your laptop’s wireless card to transfer data. This means that if you’re out of range of your laptop’s wireless signal, your IUM loses its functionality. The alternative (and I don’t think it works this way) would be that it somehow connects to your laptop over the internet, which means that the IUM would function anywhere it could get WiFi access, possibly allowing you to set up secured access points ahead of time.

Whichever way it functions, I wouldn’t really think of this as a USB flash drive at all, for the simple reason that you can’t use it to back up or transfer data independently of your laptop. It’s more of a wireless USB network adapter, in that it gives any USB compatible device access to the data on your laptop via a local (ad-hoc) wireless network. This is definitely a handy capability, although its usefulness is limited to electronics with USB ports but without a network connection that you don’t want to plug your computer into directly (although there is something to be said for ease of use, which the IUM certainly appears to offer).

The cost for this convenience is $129, which seems rather steep to me, although (for what it’s worth) it’s generally equivalent to the Eye-Fi Pro, which offers the same kind of wireless ad-hoc network functionality.

The Infinitec IUM Drive goes on sale July 1.

[ IUM Drive ] VIA [ ZDNet ]

Write Or Die Makes You Write Or… Else


By Evan Ackerman

I wrote this post in six minutes. This is vastly, exponentially faster than I normally write posts. How did I manage it? Through hard work, dedication, and threats. Mostly the threats, to be honest, thanks (I guess) to a webpage called Write or Die, which aims to combat laziness and apathy by literally forcing you to write. You tell Write or Die how many words you’re trying to get down in how much time, and depending on how strict you want it to be, it will do anything from slowly turning its text box red to playing evil sounds to (in “Kamikaze Mode”) actually deleting your words if it doesn’t think you’re going fast enough. Like, I just had to rewrite that sentence because I went and checked my email for 10 seconds and Write or Die did not approve. For $10, you can get a desktop version, which eliminates the internet as a distraction and gives you the option of disabling saves until you meet your goal.

Now, I’m all for positive reinforcement as opposed to negative reinforcement, so it would be way better if there was a website called “Write or No Jellybeans” that gave me jellybeans when I did a good job. Until someone figures out a way to make that work (and honestly, it probably wouldn’t be that hard for someone with some hardware and software skill), I’ll just keep on punishing myself with this website because damn, I’m super productive now. At least, I am as long as

[ Write or Die ] VIA [ Geekosystem ]

OhGizmo Review: Cloud Engines Pogoplug


By Evan Ackerman

We got our first peek at the Pogoplug at last year’s CES, and it promised to be an impressive little thing: plug a USB hard drive into one end, your network into the other, and all of a sudden you’ve got a locally mountable networked drive with web sharing. Potentially, this is super convenient, but if you’ve ever tried to set up all that stuff yourself, it seems like one of those things that’s going to be either a major headache, or impossible, to get working.

Cloud Engines sent me a Pogoplug (and some microwave popcorn) to play around with a while ago, and I’ve got my impressions for you, after the jump.Continue Reading