Mars

NASA Is Building a Virtual Mars For VR Viewing (unrealengine.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: NASA will release a free virtual reality program this year that will simulate exploring the surface of Mars. "Players will be able to walk on the Red Planet as well as drive the Mars Rover..." reads the official announcement at UnrealEngine.com. The Mars 2030 Experience will be available on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR, and will also "expand" to Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, with additional versions for Android and iOS devices, and it will even be streamed on Twitch. NASA plans to reveal more details at this year's South by Southwest conference in March.
GUI

Video Pet Wearables? But Seriously, Folks... (Video) 28

It sounds like a joke at first, but Risto Lähdesmäki, CEO of user interface design firm Idean (corporate motto: Life is too short for crappy UX), pointed us at DogTelligent and several other companies that are making pet wearables that seem to have real, practical uses. But Risto and his design crew work primarily on wearables and interface design for humans, and since their client list ranges from Sony and Samsung to Volkswagen and Rolls Royce, Risto is in a great position to spot future trends in the (maybe too) hot wearables market.
Sony

Apple, Samsung, and Sony Face Child Labor Claims (amnestyusa.org) 187

An anonymous reader writes: Amnesty International has accused Apple, Samsung, Sony, and other tech companies of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children. A new report explains how cobalt is harvested from mines by children as young as seven years old. The cobalt then ends up in lithium-ion batteries sold to device-makers throughout the world. The list of companies who use these batteries also includes Daimler, Dell, HP, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Vodafone, Volkswagen, and ZTE. Amnesty International notes that half the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where many mining operations have terrible track records for accidents and concern for workers' welfare. They say, "the vast majority of miners spend long hours every day working with cobalt without the most basic of protective equipment, such as gloves, work clothes or facemasks to protect them from lung or skin disease." According to UNICEF, about 40,000 kids worked in mines across southern DRC in 2014.
Sony

Sony Attempts To Trademark "Let's Play" 111

An anonymous reader writes: Why is it that kids these days spend days upon days watching people play video games on Youtube and Twitch when they could spend those days playing games themselves? While we may never find out why, Let's Plays are an established part of today's gaming ecosystem, and the publishers want their piece of the pie. Nintendo lost love by forcefully taking the proceeds from ad revenue on Youtube for its videos, but Sony... never settling for second-best... has recently filed to trademark the phrase. I don't know what's more surprising: Sony's audacity to grab a phrase with recorded usage as far back as 2007... or that EA didn't think of it first.
Operating Systems

Hackers Get Linux Running On a PlayStation 4 (engadget.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Two years after the PlayStation 4 was released, and two weeks after it was jailbroken, a group of hackers has now successfully installed Linux on it. "...it appears that the fail0verflow team utilized a WebKit bug similar to the one recently documented by GitHub user CTurt and then took things up a notch. CTurt's workaround focuses on the PlayStation 4's Webkit browser, which is tricked into freeing processes from the core of the console's operating system by an improvised webpage. The PS4 is powered by Sony's Orbis OS, which is based on a Unix-like software called FreeBSD. With a route into the console's system, fail0verflow then identified weaknesses in the PlayStation 4's GPU. It specifically called out engineers from semiconductor company Marvell, accusing them of 'smoking some real good stuff' when they designed the PlayStation 4's southbridge chip."
Graphics

Four Factors That Will Push VR Forward in 2016 (technologyreview.com) 64

At MIT Technology Review, Rachel Metz lists four factors she believes will mean great advancements for virtual reality in the next year. More and better games; wider adoption of specialized cameras for capturing the deep imagery that immersive worlds require; specialized presentation techniques that supplement VR with physical cues like temperature or direction; and availability of better viewing hardware. That better hardware seems poised to take off. According to the article, Facebook-owned Oculus’s first consumer headset, Rift, is slated for release in the first quarter of the year, while the HTC Vive—a headset created by smartphone maker HTC and video-game company Valve—is set to be available to consumers in April. Sony, meanwhile, is building its own headset, called PlayStation VR, which the company says will be released in the first half of the year.
Businesses

Fujitsu Spins Off Its PC and Mobile Divisions (engadget.com) 100

An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, Sony unloaded the part of its business that built PCs. Now, a year later, competitor Fujitsu is doing the same. The company announced it would be spinning off its PC and mobile business, effective 1 February 2016. Your first reaction was probably, "Fujitsu had a PC and mobile business?" You're not alone, and this is likely why the split is happening. In their press release, they say, "With the ongoing commoditization of ubiquitous products, mainly of PCs and smart phones, it has become increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation, and competition with emerging global vendors has intensified." More simply: they couldn't make a competitive product. Hopefully, this is the start of a trend; the race to zero in the Windows laptop market is finally killing off some of the participants.
Security

Phantom Squad Hacking Group Claims Credit For Three-Hour Xbox Live Outage 49

An anonymous reader writes: The Phantom Squad hacking group appears to have anticipated its own Christmas schedule for attacks on the Xbox and PlayStation networks by taking credit for a three-hour outage on Xbox Live services in the last 24 hours. Apparently the group, which has disassociated itself from the Christmas 2014 attacks on the PS4 network, claims like them to be engaging in PenSec testing for gaming networks, and before itsTwitter account was suspended tweeted: 'If cyber security really has existed. Then what we do should not be possible.'
Power

Sony Creating Sulfur-Based Batteries With 40% More Capacity Than Li-Ion (hothardware.com) 151

MojoKid writes: Since the original iPhone was released in 2007, we have seen some incredible advances in smartphone processing power along with a wealth of feature improvements like faster Wi-Fi and cellular speeds and larger, higher resolution displays. However, battery technology, for the most part, hasn't kept up. There are a few major battery suppliers but Sony is currently an underdog, commanding just 8 percent of the market for compact lithium-ion batteries. Its three largest competitors — Samsung (SDI), Panasonic and LG Chem — each command around 20 percent of the market. In an effort to change that, Sony is developing a new type of battery chemistry that can boost runtimes by 40 percent compared to lithium-ion batteries of the same volume. Sony's batteries use a sulfur compound instead of lithium compounds for the positive electrodes, reportedly allowing for much great energy density. Sulfur batteries can also supposedly be made 30 percent smaller than traditional lithium-ion cells while maintaining the same run times. The company is now working to ensure that the new battery chemistry is safe enough for commercial use.
PlayStation (Games)

Developer Claims 'PS4 Officially Jailbroken' (networkworld.com) 133

colinneagle sends word that a developer has claimed to have achieved a jailbreak of the PlayStation 4. Networkworld reports: "If you have a PS4 and want to run homebrew content, then you might be happy to know developer CTurt claimed, "PS4 is now officially jailbroken." Over the weekend, CTurt took to Twitter to make the announcement. He did not use a jail vulnerability, he explained in a tweet. Instead, he used a FreeBSD kernel exploit.

Besides posting "an open source PlayStation 4 SDK" on GitHub, CTurt analyzed PS4's security twice and explained PS4 hacking. CTurt updated the open source PS4 SDK yesterday; he previously explained that Sony's proprietary Orbis OS is based on FREEBSD. In the past he released the PS4-playground, which included PS4 tools and experiments using the Webkit exploit for PS4 firmware version 1.76. To put that in context, Sony released version 3.0 in September. However, CTurt claimed the hack could be made to work on newer firmware versions.

Other PS4 hackers are reportedly also working on a kernel exploit, yet as Wololo pointed out, it is unlikely there might be more than proof-of-concept videos as the developers continue to tweak the exploit. Otherwise, Sony will do as it has in the past and release a new firmware version. In October 2014, developers nas and Proxima studied the PSVita Webkit exploit, applied it to the PS4, and then released the PS4 proof-of-concept. Shortly thereafter. Sony pushed out new firmware as a patch."
NASA

NASA Looks To PlayStation VR To Train Space Robot Operators (roadtovr.com) 13

An anonymous reader writes: Humanoid robots in space are attractive because their emulation of the human form makes them capable of a huge range of tasks. But remotely controlling such bots is a very different challenge from the math-based methods used to make probe course corrections or plot rover routes. NASA has collaborated with Sony using PlayStation VR to explore methods for controlling humanoid robots in space, and created a virtual reality simulation designed to train operators to compensate for the data delay caused by the vast distances involved in space communication.
PlayStation (Games)

Italy Invests 150 Million Euros In Surveillance, With Emphasis On PS4 Chats (thestack.com) 62

An anonymous reader sends word that Italy will spend 150 million Euros on reforming information and security services. Part of this reform will be monitoring communication among users of the "chat" feature on PlayStation 4. The Stack reports: "Italian Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando has revealed that Italy is spending 150 million euros ($157mn) on new technology and staff to improve surveillance capabilities, and emphasized that the 'new instruments' (it's not clear whether this means new technology or new requisitions) will also target the Sony PlayStation network which fell under suspicion as a possible forum of organization for the Paris attacks (though no evidence was found to support this)."
Sony

Sony Unlocks PlayStation 4's Previously Reserved Seventh CPU Core For Devs (hothardware.com) 143

MojoKid writes: Toward the beginning of the year, it was revealed that Microsoft was going to "unlock" the seventh core on the Xbox One's processor, enabling developers to eke just a bit more performance out of the console and offer more flexibility at resource utilization. It appears that Microsoft's move would inevitably be followed by Sony, as reports are now coming in that this will be made available on the PlayStation 4 as well. This subtle change was highlighted in the latest changelog for the FMOD sound engine which is labeled as a "LowLevel API." While the unlocked core could take on FMOD duties if developers want it to, it's now not going to be tied to any single purpose. Developers could make use of this core, for example, to boost AI performance, or any other process that has a heavy computation requirement. It could also be used to simply help ease overall system load.
Piracy

Swedish Court Says ISPs Can't Be Forced To Block Pirate Bay 20

The Next Web reports that a district court in Sweden has ruled that it cannot simply force ISPs to block The Pirate Bay, despite its role in large-scale copyright violation. A coalition of copyright holders including Sony and a group representing the Swedish film industry wanted the court to force Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to curtail access, as courts have done in various cases around the world. The court found that Bredbandsbolaget couldn’t be held responsible for the copyright infringement of its customers’ actions while using the service as it doesn’t constitute a crime under Swedish law, according to the report. As such, it’s also not liable for any of the fines. While it could still be overturned by a higher authority appeals court, the group representing the copyright holders will have to pay the ISPs legal costs thus far, which is more than $150,000 according to TorrentFreak. (And here's TorrentFreak's report.) Update: 11/29 15:55 GMT by T : Oops -- sorry, we've mentioned this once already.
The Courts

Czech Judge Cuts Deal With Software Pirate: Get 200K YouTube Views Or Pay Huge Fine 95

An anonymous reader writes: A judge allowed a software pirate to make a anti-piracy PSA and get away from paying a $373,000 / €351,000 fine he owed Microsoft and other software manufacturers. The only condition was that his video should get over 200,000 views on YouTube. From the BBC's coverage of the trial's unusual outcome: [The defendant, known only as Jakub F] came to the out-of-court settlement with a host of firms whose software he pirated after being convicted by a Czech court. In return, they agreed not to sue him. ... The firms, which included Microsoft, HBO Europe, Sony Music and Twentieth Century Fox, estimated that the financial damage amounted to 5.7m Czech Crowns (£148,000). But the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represented Microsoft, acknowledged that Jakub could not pay that sum. Instead, the companies said they would be happy to receive only a small payment and his co-operation in the production of the video. In order for the firms' promise not to sue to be valid, they said, the video would have to be viewed at least 200,000 times within two months of its publication this week. ... But, if the video did not reach the target, the spokesman said that — "in theory" — the firms would have grounds to bring a civil case for damages."
Security

What the Sony Hack Looked Like To Employees (slate.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: The cyber attack on Sony was one of the highest profile hacks in the past several years. Slate tracked down two dozen people who worked there at the time, and asked them what it was like on the inside while it was happening. Quoting: "The telephone directory vanished. Voicemail was offline. Computers became bricks. Internet access on the lot was shuttered. The cafeteria went cash-only. Contracts—and the templates those contracts were based on—disappeared. Sony's online database of stock footage was unsearchable. It was near impossible for Sony to communicate directly with its employees—much less ex-employees, who were also gravely affected by the hack—to inform them of what was even happening and what to do about it. 'It was like moving back into an earlier time,' one employee says." Some employees had their workloads doubled, some had nothing to do. While the hack brought the company together at the beginning, it eventually descended into recriminations and lawsuits.
Emulation (Games)

Sony Quietly Adds PS2 Emulation To the PS4 (eurogamer.net) 151

An anonymous reader writes: The Digital Foundry blog reports that Sony has added functionality to the PlayStation 4 that allows it to act as an emulator for some PlayStation 2 games. Surprisingly, the company did not mention that this functionality is live; a new Star Wars game bundle just happened to include three titles that were released on the PS2. From the article: "How can we tell? First of all, a system prompt appears telling you that select and start buttons are mapped to the left and right sides of the Dual Shock 4's trackpad. Third party game developers cannot access the system OS in this manner. Secondly, just like the PS2 emulator on PlayStation 3, there's an emulation system in place for handling PS2 memory cards. Thirdly, the classic PlayStation 2 logo appears in all of its poorly upscaled glory when you boot each title." Sony has confirmed the games are being emulated, but declined to provide any further details.
Media

Sony To End Sales of Betamax Tapes Next Year 103

AmiMoJo writes: In March 2016 Sony will finally end sales of its Betamax video tapes. The firm revealed on its website that it will also stop shipping the Micro MV cassette, used in video cameras. Sony launched the format in 1975, a year before JVC's rival the VHS cassette — which eventually became the market leader after a long battle between the two brands and their fans. Although many felt Betamax was the superior format, most cite the longer recording length of VHS tapes — three hours versus one — and the cheaper manufacturing costs for VHS machines as the main factors as to why VHS eventually won out. When my dad stops buying VHS tapes in bulk, maybe that market will finally wither away, too.
Nintendo

Hands-On With the Nintendo PlayStation (engadget.com) 51

An anonymous reader writes: Several months ago, we got a look at a weird bit of technology: a Nintendo PlayStation prototype made in the late '80s during an unusual partnership between Sony and Nintendo. Despite cries of "hoax" and "fake," the console turns out to be real. Engadget got to try it out, X-ray it, and even open the device up to try repairing the CD drive. They brought in Daniel Cheung, a retro console technician from Restart Workshop, and he said, "I got to see the real deal so I can't discredit it. And there's even an OS. You can't question it. It can't be fake. Going back to the chips we saw earlier on the logic board: NEC used to make gaming consoles, and Sony also participated here. And with Nintendo as part of this team, you just can't discredit this."
Sony

Sony PlayStation 4 Hits 500 Games Milestone (finder.com) 86

SlappingOysters writes: Finder is reporting that the catalogue of Sony PlayStation 4 games has just passed the 500 mark. The website has been tracking the install sizes of every PS4 game and in doing that, has been able to confirm that the mark had been reached. It's a significant catalogue advantage for the console, with the Xbox One currently offering 349 games, although the arrival of backwards compatibility on November 12 will change that dramatically. The site has also shown that the rate of releases is increasing over time.

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