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Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  

How to make virtual worlds more convincing

Video games often feature expansive worlds to explore. But a combination of rigid structure and bland surface randomness leaves them wanting for depth and meaning. A company named Improbable wants to fix this.

Virtual worlds will no longer feel as if they’re built of “cardboard,” says Improbable’s CEO and cofounder, Herman Narula. Moreover, using Improbable’s technology, objects and entities will be able to remain in the virtual world persistently, even when there are no human players around (currently, most virtual worlds essentially freeze when unoccupied). And actions taken in one corner of a game could have implications later or in another place.+

Virtual worlds are already often expansive. The procedurally generated game No Man’s Sky, for example, presents a virtual galaxy that is too large for any human to fully explore within his or her lifetime (see “No Man’s Sky: A Vast Game Created by Algorithms”). But even if we are awed by the sprawl of their geography, the complexity of such worlds is limited by hardware and software limitations.

Worlds Adrift is the flagship game in development using the system.

I'm eager to see this in action. The price of increased complexity and realism is often a counterproductive uncanniness, a finer level of detail that firmly reminds the observer of how far it remains from reality.

Making simple worlds more convincing? I enjoy it when generative techniques are reserved for nature, "man-made" stuff such as cities or buildings are designed by hand, and when much of the world remains inaccessible, an imagination-triggering mystery.

Elite: Dangerous "the best damn spaceship game I’ve ever played"


It's a big, incomplete mess, but so is Minecraft, and Elite 4 just happens to be an incredibly good game, writes Lee Hutchison.

To find Elite: Dangerous a good game, you have to like what it is: the greatest "I feel like I’m flying a spaceship" game that’s ever been made up to this point in the history of computer gaming. Meticulously planning out your trade routes and then hauling cargo for hours at a stretch has to be its own reward. Flying thousands of light years out into the black to see what no human has ever seen has to be its own reward. Blowing up dozens and dozens of criminals to snag their bounties has to be its own reward.

The journey has to be worth it for you, because otherwise, Elite: Dangerous is a monotonous grind-fest with no destination.

Which is exactly what Elite, Frontiers: Elite 2, and Frontier: First Encounters were. Nailed it.

1985 NYT column denounces laptops

Untitled-1 The Internet's making fun of the crushed prognostications in this 1985 denunciation of laptops by Erik Sandberg-Diment. But it's a perceptive explanation of how tech companies trick themselves into believing a broad market exists for immature technology that appeals to early adopters.

John Oliver interviews Edward Snowden

The surveillance state—and the lies told in its defense—boiled down and boiled off by HBO's John Oliver.

On vacation in rural Ohio, found where they keep the racism


Yep, pretty sure this is all of it.

Excuses for not putting a woman on a U.S. banknote

US_$20_1929_Federal_Reserve_Bank_Note "How Hard Would It Be to Change the Face on the $20?" asks Jaime Fuller. All choices, unfortunately, are "bound to cause political tantrums."

The electronic music of tomorrow

linnstrument straight, noaka 8-26-14-crop-u15412Roger Linn invented a brilliant new keyboard, sensitive to touch in three dimensions, for playing electronic music. Wired's Rene Chun covers how the Linnstrument has progressed since its debut.

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Spielberg to direct Ready Player One movie


A film of Ready Player One, Ernest Cline's excellent sci-fi novel about a virtual reality treasure hunt that turns lethal, will be directed by the legendary filmmaker. Deadline reports on his first flick with Warner Bros. in 14 years.

With this news, a question arises about how they will bring a key element of the book’s virtual world to life for the big screen. After all, it seems imperative for the audience to feel like they were dropped into the middle of a video game.

That kind of technology is just becoming available, and if these guys implement that, this could change the face of cinema. The studio has been on the cutting edge of this kind of thing before, pushing the envelope with technology and visual effects with such films as The Lego Movie, Inception and The Matrix – all with great results. If anyone can pull it off again, it will be these guys.

RPO is about a dead VR mogul's fortune, concealed in a vast online world, and the kids desperate--not least because of their real-world poverty or other circumstances--to find it. The contradictions of utopia, reality, virtuality and mundanity are threaded throughout, but it's a fast-paced YA yarn too; read Mark's review for more.

I hope Spielberg shoots some straight-up cinema and skips the lure of extravagant 3D gimmicks, let alone actual VR. It's a timely story, but doesn't need to end up a thing of its time.

Book art:

Fake service dogs everywhere

badmocap An actual service dog in casual attire. Photo: David Lewandowski

"Service dog fraud" is a thing, now. Qualified handlers are aggravated by the increase of people saying their dogs are service animals, allowing them entry to cool human-only places, when they are not.

The BBC reports that "it is easy to buy a service dog vest on the internet, such as this one at Amazon.

Issues with both service dogs and ESAs highlight a disquiet amongst some Americans regarding increasingly strict rules controlling where animals are allowed.

"I think a lot of this could be resolved by having different legislation about animals being allowed in public transportation and perhaps in cafes and more public places," says Dunbar.

"Unfortunately it is going in the other direction, which is I why I think we are seeing so much abuse."

BBC sacks Jeremy Clarkson

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Angered by the lack of hot food provided for him late at night, he verbally abused and ultimately physically attacked a colleague and had to be pulled away.

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How not to make a toupée

"A man in Norway faces jail after cutting off his own hair and beard and then gluing it to another man’s head in an apparent attempt to create a toupée." [The Local via Arbroath]

Mom jeans back in, and it has nothing to do with so-called hipster irony

snl-mom-jeans-skit-photoContrary to those who think it's some kind of "hipster thing," mom jeans are not normcore—they're just a return to what was fashionable a generation ago, straight-leg light-wash cotton jeans with high rises: "irony as a lifestyle choice is over."

Reddit's most toxic communities charted

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Based on analysis of personal attacks and other machine-learned elements of language, a research company figured out which subreddits are the most toxic, then charted that toxicity against supportiveness. The results reveal much about the cultish and casual nature of various subreddits--and, often, myths about what places are really so bad.

For example, while certain "usual suspects" proved to be highly toxic and (Edit: NOT) supportive--r/atheism and r/theredpill, for example--others failed to live up to their cultlike reputation. r/headphones, for example, turns out to be a fairly laid-back lounge rather than the formidable bastion of deranged audiophilia redditors seem to regard it as. Other extremes: r/libertarian is notably supportive without toxicity, while r/relationships is notably toxic without the supportiveness its name promises.

Update: I misread the supportive axis on the chart! It's inverted. So, r/libertarian is nontoxic but unsupportive, etc.

And r/DIY is neither supportive and [edit:NON] toxic--you can either follow the instructions or not. receive an abundance of helpful assistance from patient experts.

At the center of the chart, the PC Master Race. (Notably absent from the charts: toxic venues that are also supportive.)

Motherboard's Kaleigh Rogers explains the details and the algorithm used, and offers an interactive chart of bigotry to play with. Can you guess which is the most bigoted subreddit?

Ugly Mail extension spots email tracking tricks

Brian Barrett quotes creator Sonny Tulyaganov: “[Streak] allowed users track emails, see when, where and what device were used to view email…very disturbing, so decided to see who is actually tracking emails in my inbox.

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Amazon permitted to test delivery drones

Times are a'changin' at the FAA: "The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday gave Amazon permission to conduct test flights of its drones outdoors, as long as the company obeys a host of rules like flying below 400 feet and only during daylight hours."

Mad Max: Fury Road international trailer

[Youtube link, via]

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