An anonymous reader writes "Peter Jansen, a PhD student and member of the RepRap community, has constructed a working prototype of an inexpensive table-top laser cutter built out of old CD/DVD drives as an offshoot of his efforts to design an under $200 open-source Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer. Where traditional laser cutters use powerful, fixed-focus beams, this new technique dynamically adjusts the focal point of the laser using a reciprocating motion similar to a reciprocating saw, allowing a far less powerful and inexpensive laser diode to be used. The technique is currently limited to cutting black materials to a depth of only a few millimeters, but should still be useful and enabling for Makers and other crafters. The end-goal is to create a hybrid inexpensive 3D printer that can be easily reconfigured for 2D laser cutting, providing powerful making tools to the desktop."
Today Electronic Arts announced Darkspore, an action RPG in development from Maxis that is inspired by Spore's creature creator technology. The game is due to launch in February 2011, and a teaser is available on the official website. A more descriptive video is available from EA's live demo (start at 8:25). Quoting Joystiq: "...Darkspore will let up to three players traverse 'several' planets cooperatively, and while there will be PvP in the finished product, Maxis isn't providing details just yet. The basics will be the same whether going in solo or as a team: You'll be able to choose from a number (again, no specifics yet) of pre-created melee, ranged and support creatures that can have their stats and abilities augmented by equipment. ... When choosing to beam down from your starship to a planet, you will see a lineup of enemy types that you'll encounter. This gives you and your friends enough information to decide which three characters from your collection you'll want to deploy. The trio can then be switched between on the fly, albeit with a brief cool-down period afterward. The idea is to use the characters' various abilities strategically against what the Left 4 Dead-inspired 'AI director' decides to toss your way."
UgLyPuNk writes "This could be a good thing or a bad thing: EA has just confirmed that it's making Mass Effect into a movie. The franchise has been acquired by Legendary Pictures, which is best known for its co-productions of The Dark Knight, Clash of the Titans, 300, Watchmen, and, um, The Hangover, as part of a co-financing agreement with Warner Bros."
I want a tax on every refrigerator that is sold since i can't sell ice anymore...
GameboyRMH writes "The Boston Globe reports that major MMO publishers (Blizzard, Turbine, SOE, NCSoft, and Jagex) are being sued by Paltalk, which holds a patent on 'sharing data among many connected computers so that all users see the same digital environment' — a patent that would seem to apply to any multiplayer game played between multiple systems, at the very least. Paltalk has already received an out-of-court settlement from Microsoft earlier this year in relation to a lawsuit over the Halo games. If Microsoft can't fend off Paltalk's legal attacks, the odds don't look good for their latest group of targets."
Anonymouse writes with this excerpt from SemiAccurate: "Apple keyboards are vulnerable to a hack that puts keyloggers and malware directly into the device's firmware. This could be a serious problem, and now that the presentation and code (PDF) is out there, the bad guys will surely be exploiting it. The vulnerability was discovered by K. Chen, and he gave a talk on it at Black Hat this year (PDF). The concept is simple: a modern Apple keyboard has about 8K of flash memory, and 256 bytes of working RAM. For the intelligent, this is more than enough space to have a field day. ... The new firmware can do anything you want it to. Chen demonstrated code which, when you put in a password and hit return, starts playing back the last five characters typed in, LIFO. It is a rudimentary keylogger; a proof of concept more than anything else. Since there is about 1K of flash free in the keyboard itself, you can log quite a few keystrokes totally transparently."
If by "them" you mean anti-piracy, no, they already got their "permit" from the IPRED-law.
"Canadian Patent Appeal Board Rules Against Business Method Patents," says a new post from Michael Geist; Lorien_the_first_one writes "Looks like the US courts could face some peer pressure," and supplies this excerpt: "[T]he panel delivered very strong language rejecting the mere possibility of business method patents under Canadian law. The panel noted that 'since patenting business methods would involve a radical departure from the traditional patent regime, and since the patentability of such methods is a highly contentious matter, clear and unequivocal legislation is required for business methods to be patentable.' ... In applying that analysis to the Amazon.com one-click patent, the panel concluded that 'concepts or rules for the more efficient conduct of online ordering, are methods of doing business. Even if these concepts or rules are novel, ingenious and useful, they are still unpatentable because they are business methods.'"
An anonymous reader was one of several to write with this news: "The French 'Conseil Constitutionnel' just ruled that the recently voted 'Hadopi' law, which enforces a 'three strikes and you're out' system, is actually unconstitutional [article in French; here's an English-language article at Ars]. They mainly make two points: 1) They argue that removing Internet access is equivalent to hindering a person's freedom of speech, and as such can only be decided by appointed judges. This removes all punitive power from the administrative body supposed to enforce the three-strikes rule; all it can do now is warn you that 'they're watching you.' 2) When illegal filesharing is detected, users have to prove their innocence. This is obviously contrary to the constitutional principle of presumption of innocence."
Nancy Atkinson writes "Using a technique called pixel-lensing, a group of astronomers in Italy may have detected a planet orbiting another star. But this planet is unique among the 300-plus exoplanets discovered so far, as it and its parent star are in another galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy, to be exact. Technically, the star in M31 was found to have a companion about 6 times the mass of Jupiter, so it could be either a brown dwarf or a planet. But either way, this is a remarkable feat, to find an object of that size in another galaxy."
KentuckyFC writes "One of the many curious properties of Bose Einstein Condensates (BECs) is that the flow of sound through them is governed by the same equations that describe how light is bent by a gravitational field. Now, a group of Israeli physicists have exploited this idea to create an acoustic black hole in a BEC. The team created a supersonic flow of atoms within the BEC, a flow that prevents any phonon caught in it from making headway. The region where the flow changes from subsonic to supersonic is an event horizon, because any phonon unlucky enough to stray into the supersonic region can never escape. The real prize is not the acoustic black hole itself but what it makes possible: the first observation of Hawking radiation. Quantum mechanics predicts that pairs of phonons with opposite momentum ought to be constantly springing in and out of existence in a BEC. Were one of the pair to stray across the event horizon into the supersonic region, it could never escape. However, the other would be free to go on its way. This stream of phononic radiation away from an acoustic black hole would be the first observation of Hawking radiation. The team hasn't gotten that far yet, but it can't be long now before either they or their numerous competitors make this leap."
From the article: "And should something go wrong with the tower, failure of a few modules would not cause the whole structure to collapse." Titanic anyone? Plan for all modules to fail at once.
x4000 writes "My recent RTS game uses a new style of AI that hybridizes rules-based AI with emergent AI logic. As a disclaimer, I'm really not an AI programmer at all — my background is in databases, financial modeling, etc. But it just so happens that database experience, which often involved distilling data points from multiple sources and then combining them into suggested decisions for executives, also makes a great foundation for certain styles of AI. The approach I came up with leans heavily on my database background, and what concepts I am familiar with from reading a bit about AI theory (emergent behavior, fuzzy logic, etc). The results are startlingly good. Total development time on the AI was less than 3 months, and its use of tactics is some of the best in the RTS genre. I'm very open to talking about anything and everything to do with the design I used, as I think it's a viable new approach to AI to explore in games, and I'd like to see other developers potentially carry it even further."
Briareos was one of several readers to write with news that TellTale Games, along with LucasArts, will be bringing new Monkey Island games later this year. Tales of Monkey Island will be a series of episodic games released for PC and WiiWare in the coming months, and The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition will be a remake of the original 1990 game, available on the PC and Xbox Live. A trailer is available for the former, and this is what the press release says about the latter: "The development team at LucasArts is bringing the game into the modern era with all-new HD graphics, a re-mastered musical score, full voiceover, and an in-depth hint system has been added to help players through the game's side-splitting puzzles. Purists will also delight in the ability to seamlessly switch between the updated HD graphics and the original's classic look." Grumpy Gamer has a nostalgic look back at the franchise.
Perhaps emboldened by the similar setback to Champions Online, Jumpgate Evolution developer NetDevil has announced that the space MMO will not be released in June, as was originally planned. NetDevil's president, Scott Brown, said, "One of the things we've always promised is that we would not release an unfinished product, nor would we subject players to a sub-par experience. ... Jumpgate Evolution is nearly feature complete, but since entering the Friends & Family phase of testing we've been able to bring new eyes onto the game and get solid, crucial feedback from actual players and fans. Based on these results, it is clear that the product needs more time to meet its objectives. As an example, we have received and read lots of feedback regarding the instanced and public PvP systems. The feedback has been vital in helping us polish and improve this core feature of the game." A new release date has not yet been selected.