Technology

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The Latest Highlights & Trends in Tech

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The Golden Nintendo

As a self-confessed and unashamed nerd with a mean nostalgic streak, I have noticed of late that retro gaming is no longer the affordable pursuit it once was. It depends largely on whether or not you're a player or a collector of course, but even if the quality of the packaging or the rarity of the game matters less to you than the pure joy of actually playing these treasured childhood relics, it's an expensive hobby to maintain now that the internet has turned every former car boot seller into an eBay whizz. All retro gaming purchases surely pale in comparison, however, to this 24-carat gold plated NES console from Analogue, who created just ten of these $5,000 dollar machines in order to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Legend of Zelda.

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It’s not a true NES of course (though it is built with actual Nintendo Entertainment System hardware), rather a fancy version of the company's existing Nt device, which plays NES and Famicom cartridges with a few extra functions. But it's arguably far grander than anything Nintendo themselves have released in the last decade, and the gold colour isn't just a Kanye style extravagance either, it actually references the fact that the original Zelda game cartridge was gold-coloured. Of course, if you really fancy retro gaming on a budget you could always download a few free emulators for your computer or smartphone and enjoy almost every game under the sun free of charge, but that would be illegal, and doesn't look even remotely as cool as this doozy!

Tesla's First Affordable Electic Car

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Tesla Motors has revealed the prototype of their next car, the Model 3. What's really news-worthy about the car isn't the technology behind it though, but the base price of $35,000. For your money you'll get a range of at least 215 miles, free access to Tesla's network of high-speed Supercharger stations, a zero-to-60mph acceleration time of less than six seconds, and Autopilot hardware. Tesla CEO Elon Musk also promised that the Model 3 will have a five-star NTHSA safety rating in every category, not just an overall five-star rating.

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Deliveries for the Model 3 are targeted for late 2017, and according to a tweet from Musk, the number of $1,000 deposits placed on Model 3 has already exceeded 198,000! Other features of the Model 3 include a large single piece of glass over the entire cabin, an all-wheel drive option, rear and front trunks, a single 15-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen display in the centre of the dashboard, and the largest interior volume of any car of its size. I'm sold!

IKEA: The Game 

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The Scandinavian furniture giants are back again to make the concept of shopping at IKEA fun. To do so, they created an app for the recently released HTC Vive called the IKEA VR Experience, which allows you to wander around an immaculate kitchen decked out in all the latest IKEA finery, and cook virtual meatballs. The app was made with developers at the French company Allegorithmic, using the Unreal Engine 4.

Virtual reality is developing quickly and in five to 10 years it will be an integrated part of people’s lives” Jesper Brodin, Managing Director at IKEA

Vive Shortages in Europe

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Speaking of the HTC Vive, it looks as if there might have been some trouble surrounding the European launch of the device, with customers in Europe saying that if they ordered a headset using a credit card, their orders didn't ship in time for the product's launch last week. Paypal orders apparently worked fine though.

Only 37% of gamers aware of VR 

A recent Nielsen survey has found (rather surprisingly given our own extensive coverage) that only 37% of self-identified US gamers are aware of at least one AR or VR device. 2000 teens and adults were polled with an online survey, and the statistics showed Oculus coming out on top with 22% awareness, with PlayStation VR at 14% and the HTC Vive at just 6%. Millennials were obviously the most clued up, with 47% expressing an interest in the burgeoning technology. Still, it would appear that VR isn't quite as important to gamers as we might have thought. For advertisers though, it might as well be the second coming.

The World's First Cyborg Olympics

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While the Paralympics are currently against its competitors using technological enhancements, the upcoming cyborg Olympics is actively encouraging people with disabilities to use them. Officially known as the Cybathlon, the event isn't going to be like an Olympic Robot Wars, but will instead place an emphasis on smaller, seemingly mundane tasks like climbing the stairs or slicing a loaf of bread. Robert Riener, the event's organiser and a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, has said that the Cybathlon is “Less about force and speed, and more about control of the body and the device.” The cycling race, for example, will have its paraplegic competitors using electrical stimulation to move their legs. Meanwhile, amputees with powered arm prosthetics will have to open jars of jams; those with leg prosthetics must walk across stepping-stones.

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Riener says the cyborg Olympics are a result of his own frustrations towards the current technology available to people with disabilities and how they're not as useful as one may expect. He hopes the event will spur innovation in the industry and lead to the development of better prosthetics. 80 teams will compete in the Cybathlon when it comes to Switzerland this October. Both the BBC and Japan’s NHK are covering the event. It there's enough interest, the next Cybathlon could take place in Tokyo alongside the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Samsung might be looking to turn our eyes into cameras

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Samsung is reportedly working on a smart contact lens, which will allow wearers to use their eyes as an image viewer and camera. We all knew this would happen eventually, but the idea was actually patented by the South Korean electronics giants back in 2014. The connected contact lenses will have a display, camera and antenna built in, along with sensors that can detect movement, potentially allowing users to take photos or stop and start video by blinking. The lenses will then connect wirelessly to a smartphone for editing and processing. They will also be able to project images directly into the eye of the user, meaning the technology could be used for augmented reality purposes. This could open doors for designers, if the innovation is to be used in a similar way to holographic headsets. In-eye contact lenses could be a less intrusive alternative to smart glasses such as the notoriously flawed Google Glass, but the concept also raises obvious issues regarding privacy. That's a difficult conversation for another time though, as it's not yet clear whether Samsung is developing an actual product to base the connected contact lens patent on, or if the technology is still just a concept.

Domino's Pizza Robot Delivery

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Domino's Pizza have never been ones to shy away from using technology to enhance the expediency of their service. Just last year they unveiled the first purpose-built pizza delivery vehicle. They've taken things a step further down under though, with what is being called the world's first commercial autonomous delivery vehicle. The DRU (Domino's Robotic Unit) has been developed in collaboration with Marathon Robotics, whose day-job centres around make targets for live-fire army training. Instead of taking gunfire though, the DRU can deliver pizza at speeds of up to 20 kilometres an hour, overcoming most obstacles in its path, including fences and driveways. You'll have to collect your delivery from the street corner for now, but one silver lining is that the DRU will talk to you while you pick up your pizza, which is almost as cool as it is creepy.

One of our inspirations for DRU is safety, it seems pretty crazy to us that we use one-and-a-half tonne vehicles to deliver a few hundred grams of pizza” Domino's CEO Don Meji

The pizza bot weighs 190kg, stands at 1185mm tall, and has cameras to catch any potential pizza snatchers in the act. DRU will be appearing over the next six months, but it will take around two years for the robot to be ready for roads. The DRU won't be stealing many delivery driver jobs yet either, as it won't be allowed on highways and can also currently only deliver an average size pizza, so if you're feeling particularly hungry you'll have to make do with a human driver for a little while longer.

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, struggling musician and tech fiend from the dark heart of Kidderminster in the UK.

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