Although Spotify eliminated its web client listening limits during January of this year, it is attempting to do even more to bring additional individuals to its music streaming service. Spotify has announced that United States college students will be able to access the premium version of the music streaming service for $5 per month instead of $10 per month. This price reduction is good for up to four years, and is meant to cover students that are enrolled in junior, two-year, and four-year college. Verification of college student eligibility will be taken care of by SheerID, which is a trusted third-party verification service.
Various media outlets as well as general users of Twitter have noticed that certain tweets have begun to disappear from the popular online social networking website. Some of the more popular tweets that have seemed to vanish as of late are the selfie photo taken by Ellen DeGeneres and the tweet of actor Cory Monteith before his death. Twitter has confirmed the issue, and revealed to users that it is researching the bug that has caused some tweets to seemingly vanish from the service.
Users of the Xbox One console will soon have access to even more streaming applications, provided that they hold an active Xbox Live Gold subscription. One of the services that will makes its way to the Xbox One is MLB.TV Premium, which provides access to live and on-demand content with capabilities to pause and rewind content. Current MLB TV subscribers must upgrade to MLB.TV Premium, and at this time MLB.TV Premium will cost users $24.99 per month, or $129.99 annually. Another service that will be available to Xbox One users is Epix, which provides primarily movies through a subscription model.
MLB.TV Premium will be available to Xbox One users in time for opening day, while Epix is set to debut sometime in the near future.
If you happened to check your email today, you may have found something from Amazon saying you received credit for past eBook purchases. It's the direct result of the eBook price fixing scheme ran by Apple and five book publishers to try and get the price above what Amazon was charging. A lawsuit resulted, which ended up with the five publisherssettling and Apple getting hit with a five-year anti-competitive ban (something it's still appealing). The good news from it all is credit is now finding its way to Amazon customers who purchased an eBook from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. Credit amounts are variable, with anything from under a dollar to $20 (and maybe higher) being possible based on how many eBooks you bought. Residents in Minnesota (current or former) that purchased an eBook are entitled to a little bit more due to a separate term negotiation because the state's attorney general didn't participate in the original lawsuit.
Anyone receiving credit from Amazon can put it towards any book available on the website, regardless of it being a physical or digital copy. It could help ease the price on something you've had an eye on, or maybe completely fund a new book if you get a lot of credit. Just be sure to use the credit by March 31, 2015, otherwise it will expire. All credit should have gone out by now, so check any folders in your email inbox (or the first source below) to find out if you received any.
Facebook has been on something of a buying spree this year, but those acquisitions have focused more on communication than anything else. That all changes today, as Facebook's CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company has purchased Oculus VR, the team behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. A rather lengthy post by Zuckerberg on Facebook (viewable at the source) covers the decision to buy Oculus VR for $2 billion, and it stems from the fact that Oculus is a leader in virtual reality technology. Zuckerberg intends for the Rift headset to continue on its intended course of delivering immersive gaming experiences, and how Facebook can help accelerate that plan. However, there's another part of the VR experience Zuckerberg is interested in, and it ties directtly into what Facebook is about: communication.
Zuckerberg explains that VR communication can allow people to share experiences easier, from meeting your doctor when you aren't in town to taking in your favorite team's game when you're nowhere near the stadium. It can also be used in the classroom for a multitude of applications. Hopefully we can avoid people sharing their most recent meal on an Oculus headset, but you never know. So, we have Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg saying the Oculus Rift will continue on its gaming path, but also get expanded upon to cover much more. It could be the kick in the pants needed to make VR a possibility for everyone, but it could also be something that makes plenty of people wary.
Microsoft's world creation tool Project Spark isn't just for games. American rock band Linkin Park decided to use Project Spark to create an interactive music video for "Guilty All The Same" (featuring Rakim), the first single from the band's upcoming album The Hunting Party. The band wants "fans to literally play with their music" – which you can do if you're in the Project Spark beta.
Band member Joe Hahn attended E3 2013 where Project Spark was unveiled, and told Billboard it blew his mind. Hahn explained that "the next step was to see if we could showcase our next song as a game instead of a video." Fellow band member Mike Shinoda told Billboard that he always wanted to make games since he was a kid, so the pieces seemed to all fall into place when Project Spark came around.
While some bands wouldn't dare think to let fans mess with their songs, Hahn says that once you put a piece of art out there, "people will interpret it their own way, and even re-interpret it as something else" – Linkin Park is simply fostering that behavior. Shinoda sees the process as a turn-based game of its own. The band has taken their turn and now it's the fans' turn.
Fractal Design has launched a contest to give away the original Define R4 Blackout Silent case that was introduced at CES 2014. The case features a little something extra in the form of a side panel signed by a number of Youtube personalities including "Linus from Linus Tech Tips, Marques of MKBHD, Logan from TekSyndicate, Austin Evans, the entire NeweggTV team and more." Entry is simple and only requires you to Like the Fractal Design Facebook page and then fill out a form. Three bonus entries can be obtained by getting your friends to enter.
Corsair has added a new model to the Obsidian series of mid-tower cases, the 450D. According to Corsair, "the 450D matches the iconic, brushed aluminum design of the Obsidian series with an increased focus on high-airflow, ensuring your system not only looks great, but runs cool." A pair of 140mm AF140L fans are included on the front of the case with a 120mm AF120L mounted on the rear of the case. The case also has three different mount points for a water cooling radiator, a 360mm in the top, 280mm in the front, and a 240mm in the bottom. Three 3.5"/5.25" combo bays are included along with space for a pair of 2.5" drives behind the motherboard and an additional two 5.25" drives. The case will have an MSRP of $119.99 and will be available in April.
NVIDIA just launched its first Maxwell-based GPUs last month and isn't even done with Kepler (see today's GTX TITAN Z announcement), but the company is already looking to the future. During the keynote speech at NVIDIA's annual GPU Technology Conference, CEO Jen-Hsun announced the company's follow-up to the Maxwell architecture, Pascal, named after the famous 17th century French mathematical Blaise Pascal.
Due to arrive in 2016, Pascal-based GPUs will include three key new features: stacked DRAM, unified memory, and NVLink. Here are the descriptions of those features in NVIDIA's words:
3D Memory: Stacks DRAM chips into dense modules with wide interfaces, and brings them inside the same package as the GPU. This lets GPUs get data from memory more quickly – boosting throughput and efficiency – allowing us to build more compact GPUs that put more power into smaller devices. The result: several times greater bandwidth, more than twice the memory capacity and quadrupled energy efficiency.
Unified Memory: This will make building applications that take advantage of what both GPUs and CPUs can do quicker and easier by allowing the CPU to access the GPU’s memory, and the GPU to access the CPU’s memory, so developers don’t have to allocate resources between the two.
NVLink: Today’s computers are constrained by the speed at which data can move between the CPU and GPU. NVLink puts a fatter pipe between the CPU and GPU, allowing data to flow at more than 80GB per second, compared to the 16GB per second available now.
If you'd like to learn more about how stacked memory and NVLink work from a more technical standpoint, check the second link below. In addition to the above features, the module used to house Pascal GPUs is "one-third the size of standard boards used today," which means we can expect high-end NVIDIA GPUs in more compact form factors.
Ubisoft has released a new video for its upcoming 2.5D platform racing game Trials Fusion, which shows off the all-new FMX tricks system. This pure gameplay trailer features some insane tricks, some bone-crunching falls, and a slew of tracks specifically designed for FMX tricks.
Trials Fusion will arrive April 16 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, while its free-to-play mobile sibling, Trials Frontier, will arrive on iOS April 10.
NVIDIA sees the SHIELD as an evolving platform and the software update coming April 2nd proves that, with a whole slew of upgrades and enhancements, including going from Android Jelly Bean to the latest Android KitKat OS, 4.4.2. The biggest enhancements are coming to GameStream, including the oft-requested ability to stream PC games to SHIELD away from home. Referred to as "Remote GameStream", it not only allows you to stream PC games without the need for a VPN workaround, but also includes Wake on LAN support and Remote Login support. However, a "robust Wi-Fi connection" is required, with minimum speeds of 5 Mbps up and down, so don't expect to connect at your local Starbucks.
Notebook support will also be coming, allowing GameStream to be used with Kepler and Maxwell mobile GPUs, which includes all GTX 800M, GTX 700M, and most GTX600M GPUs. In addition, full Bluetooth keyboard and mouse support will be added to Console Mode, which allows you to stream games through your SHIELD to your TV. This will make playing gamepad-unfriendly games like Civilization V a lot easier. Furthermore, while the number of GameStream-Ready games has increased from the initial 24 at launch to over 100, GeForce Experience will be getting the ability to add unofficially supported games manually. A host of advanced settings will be added to the SHIELD as well, allowing users to manually set bitrate, FPS, and optimal settings preferences.
Those advanced settings will be found in the TegraZone, which is getting an update of its own. While there are now over 140 games in TegraZone, the current interface doesn't make it easy to discover new additions. The TegraZone is getting a complete user interface overhaul that should improve organization and discoverability of games. There will also be an integrated news feed, which will provide the latest SHIELD and TegraZone articles. While GameStream is a huge selling point, NVIDIA is committed to bringing PC and console games to Android, which is no more apparent than with three recent additions to the TegraZone: Rochard, Mount & Blade: Warband, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. For those games without official physical-button support, Gamepad Mapper is getting a new user interface that should make it easier to download and share Mapper profiles.
In honor of all these great improvements, the SHIELD will be priced at $199 through the end of April, providing an instant savings of $50. You can check here to buy directly from NVIDIA or for a list of retailers in your region. Be sure to check out my pre-update review of the SHIELD if you're on the fence.
Back in February, NVIDIA unveiled the GTX TITAN Black, which offered increased clock speeds and performance over the original GTX TITAN. Today, at NVIDIA's annual GPU Technology Conference, the company unveiled the newest iteration, the GTX TITAN Z, which includes two Kepler GPUs (with 2880 processor cores apiece) and 12GB of 7Gbps GDDR5 memory.
According to NVIDIA, TITAN Z's GPUs "are tuned to run at the same clock speed, and with dynamic power balancing [...] so neither GPU creates a performance bottleneck." The company also claims it's "cool and quiet" with "low-profile components and ducted baseplate channels" to reduce turbulence and noise.
While the TITAN Z may seem like overkill for the normal user, it's geared toward "next-generation 5K and multi-monitor gaming." And of course, it comes with quite the hefty price tag: $2,999 (three times the price of a single TITAN Black). This is clearly not for your typical gamer, but you can't fault NVIDIA for really pushing the envelope.
ArenaNet will be releasing a Guild Wars 2 update on April 15 that focuses entirely on in-game features. Dubbed the April 2014 Feature Pack, it includes a variety of additions and changes, from new traits to balance changes. Arguably the biggest addition – at least of the ones announced thus far – is the inclusion of an Account Wardrobe.
The Wardrobe "makes it easy to customize your look at any time and to share cosmetic items across all the characters on your account." The Wardrobe is accessible in a tab on your Hero Panel and includes every armor and weapon skin you have unlocked on any character. Changing skins consumes Transmutation Charges, but you can preview them before applying them, and you can apply skins infinitely, so you can always change your look whenever you want.
To accommodate the new Wardrobe system, ArenaNet has changed skins to an account-wide unlock system. Account-bound items will automatically unlock their skin when they go into your inventory, while you'll be able to unlock other skins "by using consumables, equipping items, salvaging equipment, or right-clicking on equipment and account-binding it." In addition, if you have any current items that have gone through "skin progression," you'll unlock all the skins in that line of progression when you log into that character for the first time after the April 15 update. Check out the video and screenshots below for a more in-depth look at the new Wardrobe system.
We have just a couple items for you to check out today, but one should be rather interesting. It's a look at AMD Mantle performance in Thief and Battlefield 4, which has the potential to increase fidelity and make more efficient use of your CPU and GPU. If it actually does is something you'll just have to read the article to see. Our other item for today is a review on Icy Dock's Blizzard 3.5" SATA enclosure, which supports hot swap and plug-and-play functionality to give you plenty of flexibility when it comes to an external hard drive.
Maker Studios, which was founded in 2009 and focuses on online videos featured on YouTube, is set to be purchased by The Walt Disney Company for a minimum of $500 million. Maker Studios is able to deliver online videos to more than 380 million subscribers located across the world, and successfully receives around 5.5 million video views every month. Disney stated that depending on the milestones hit by Maker Studios before the purchase is completed, the price for the YouTube network could be as high as $950 million. Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, noted that because short-form online video is growing so quickly, the company is excited to enter the dynamic industry.
The purchase deal is expected to be completed during the third fiscal quarter for Disney.
After video features on the story, animating Batman, and keeping gameplay fresh, Game Informer has released a new video feature for Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Knight focused on the music. Rocksteady's audio director and composer Nick Arundel has worked on the previous two games and returns for Arkham Knight, but this time he recruited composer David Buckley to help him out, who has not only worked on other video games, but movies and television shows as well. In the video, Arundel explains what it's like to work on the Arkham trilogy and how the Scarecrow is influencing the new soundtrack.
Batman: Arkham Knight is set to release later this year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
CRYORIG is a relatively new company in the PC cooling landscape and it is hoping to make a splash with the first entry into the C series of "ITX orientated top flow coolers." The C1 cooler will be paired with the XT140 slim 140mm pulse width modulation fan. It will be compatible with AMD APUs and CPUs as well as Intel processors. The C1 is set to release in May 2014 with more information expected to be available as the release date nears.
DirectX 12 (DX12) was officially unveiled last Thursday at GDC, and of course it has every PC gamer excited. Even though it's not scheduled to release until Holiday 2015, the biggest concern with any new major API release is whether it'll require new hardware to support it. During the GDC presentation, both NVIDIA and AMD took the stage to confirm DX12 support for existing cards, but just how true is that?
I had a chance to speak with representatives from NVIDIA today, who reconfirmed that all Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell cards will support DX12. In other words, 100% of GeForce DX11 GPUs will already support DX12! You may recall that AMD didn't provide specifics at the GDC presentation and now I know why – according to NVIDIA, like AMD's Mantle, DX12 requires AMD's GCN architecture, which means only 40% of AMD DX11 GPUs will support DX12 (the same percentage that supports Mantle). Not the best news if you're a member of the red camp.
Also not the best news for the red camp is that Mantle seems doomed to fail now that DX12 has been officially unveiled. Proprietary graphics APIs have simply never been able to compete with the likes of DirectX because their footprint is much smaller. This is no more apparent than looking at the current breakdown from the recent Steam Hardware Stats. DX11 GPUs account for 78% of the total discrete GPU install base, with DX10 at 21% and DX9 at 1%. Of those DX11 GPUs, 79% support DX12, while only 14% support Mantle. How many developers will care to focus their efforts on Mantle when DX12 will have a much larger install base at launch?
So why does it seem NVIDIA is much better equipped to handle DX12 from the onset than AMD? While I am unsure of AMD's relationship with Microsoft, NVIDIA stated that DX12 is a "result of four years of collaboration between Microsoft and NVIDIA." Clearly that long-term collaboration and commitment is paying off. In fact, it was NVIDIA that provided Microsoft with a working DX12 driver to show off the world's first DX12 game demo, Forza Motorsport 5, which was running on a GTX Titan Black.
The good news for NVIDIA DX11 GPU owners is that we don't have to wait until Holiday 2015 to see some major performance improvements. A brand new NVIDIA driver will be publicly released in April that will improve performance dramatically across all DX11 games. Details are not yet available, but NVIDIA did release two benchmarks (one synthetic and one game) that show significant improvement, which can be seen below. Of course those should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the source, but it's certainly promising nonetheless.
Conquer Online, which is a free-to-play martial arts style MMORPG that is set within ancient Chinese lands, is welcoming a new expansion known as Wrath of the Trojan. Within this expansion, several new skills are available for all in game classes, and additional weapons are present in the land of Conquer as well. Players of Conquer Online: Wrath of the Trojan can obtain the new weapons, known more specifically as Epic Weapons, by playing through quests known as Epic Quests, which provide quite a bit of challenge.
In an announcement made by Google, its personal assistant known as Google Now has made its way into the Google Chrome web browser. The latest stable version of Google Chrome supports the service, and users will be able to see Google Now cards within the system tray or notification area of their operating system. Google Now within Chrome works basically the same as the mobile version, offering commute traffic information, event reminder cards, sport scores, voice search capabilities, weather, and more. Some information provided by Google Now within the Google Chrome web browser is actually based off of location information of mobile Android devices.
Users will be able to access Google Now within the latest stable version of Google Chrome throughout the next few weeks as the update makes it way to the masses.
Brendan Eich, who was the former CTO at Mozilla, has been named as the new CEO for the company. Eich replaces Gary Kovacs, who announced his resignation as the Mozilla CEO just around a year ago. Eich will be responsible for the Firefox web browser in his new position, and will also take on the mobile operating system known as Firefox OS. As the new CEO, Eich is attempting to develop and market smartphones that are powered by Firefox OS, with the mobile operating system being his main focus for the company going forward.
Boost Mobile has announced the availability of a new handset that supports 4G LTE, the LG Optimus F3. The new offering by Boost Mobile has been available on Sprint and Virgin Mobile since last summer, but consumers should find the budget phone refreshing with a price point of $129.99. The LG Optimus F3 features a 1.2GHz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 4-inch display, a 5-megapixel camera, 4GB of internal storage, a 2,460 mAh battery, and Android 4.1. Consumers can use the phone on the Boost Mobile unlimited talk and text plan that comes with 2.5GB of data for $55 per month, which also qualifies for semi-annual price reductions for on time payments.
In today's culture, much of our communication utilizes written or more accurately, typed words in the form of tweets, updates, posts, and more. Throughout and even before human history though, our culture evolved with communication that used more than words, but also physical cues. Researchers at the University of Toronto have recently built a computer system capable of more accurately indicating when facial cues are false than actual humans.
With humanity's ability to read a person's emotions from facial cues, we have also developed ways to trick each other by putting on faces, not representative of our situation. When tested it was found that the average person is no more accurate about if someone is in pain or faking, than if they guessed. Even with training the numbers do not get much better, but the computer system was accurate 85% of the time. One of the primary indications of if someone was faking was how the mouth behaved, and if it opened and closed too regularly.
While this study may seem to do little more than indicate a sci-fi future controlled by robots, it could have some important, real impacts. These include systems to catch other deceptive actions than faking pain and perhaps could develop into ways to track how sleepy a driver is, how responsive treatments are for some disorders, and if students are actually paying attention during lectures.
Last month, we learned that Trials Fusion would be arriving April 16, 2014, on PC and consoles. When that game was first unveiled at Ubisoft's E3 2013 Press Conference, another Trials game was also announced, a mobile version entitled Trials Frontier. Today, Ubisoft has announced that Trials Frontier will be arriving April 10, 2014, on iOS as a free-to-play title, while an Android version will be available "at a later date." This marks the first time a Trials game is coming to mobile devices.
Trials Frontier takes place in a "future wild-west like environment, after the fall of the Trials Fusion universe." Connecting with Trials Fusion allows players to earn bonus rider gear – presumably for both games, though it wasn't specifically stated. As you'd expect from a Trials game, there will be leaderboards, along with the ability to share your favorite moments via social networks.
If you live in Canada or Finland, Trials Frontier is actually already available via an "early release, soft launch program."
Many people would like to see a future with advanced sensors built into clothing, with the sole purposes and monitoring someone's vital signs. Such technology could be used to monitor a patient and even assist in diagnosing. Researchers at North Carolina State University have recently developed a new stretchable antenna for those sensors, which should be able to survive the abuse such a sensor will take.
As many groups are working on wearable sensors, many are also working on stretchable antennas. What helps set the North Carolina researchers' antenna apart is that its simple construction could allow it to be integrated directly into the sensors. The antenna itself is made by applying silver nanowires to a stencil, and that then is coated with a polymer. Once the polymer has set, the nanowires will be embedded in the desired antenna pattern, and while straining the polymer will deform the antenna, relieving the stress will allow it to return to its original shape. Such deformation does affect the frequency the antenna puts out, but not enough to disrupt communication.
With this antenna's resilience, it could bring wearable electronics and sensors closer to reality, especially as it can be built into the sensor and is easy to scale up.
It's the start of the final week of March, and we have some items for you to check out to get it going. There's a review on the OCZ Vector 150 240GB SATA III SSD, which uses Toshiba's 19nm Toggle MLC NAND to provide consistent performance over the long run. We also have a look at the Roccat Kone Pure that makes use of a new laser sensor for higher sensitivity. Finishing things off today is a review on the Diamond Wireless Music Receiver, which uses Bluetooth to help get your tunes to wherever you need them in your home.