Monthly Archives: November 2015

Computer Games are Getting Creepy: The Park Debuts in 2016

Computer games are popular across all demographics, and users are attracted to many different games. For those of us who love finding hidden objects, there is Facebook’s Pearl’s Peril. Candy Crush and Cookie Jam were designed for gamers who love solving puzzles in bright, colorful environments. What if your taste in computer games is a bit darker than most?

For users who like their computer games scary, Funcom will roll out a new game called The Park in 2016. A version of the game came out for PCs during Halloween and received negative reviews for being clichéd and circular. However, the game’s makers are confident that the frightening single-player game will catch on.

Creative director Joel Bylos describes it as a narrative, psychological horror experience. Gamers play as Lorraine, a young widowed mother who has lost her son, Callum, in an amusement park where all is not what it seems. Gamers press the right mouse button to shout Callum’s name while looking for him, and the more the mouse button is pressed, the more panicked Lorraine’s voice becomes.

As Lorraine grows more panicked, the events around her become darker and scarier. According to game designers, The Park’s focus is narrative and emotional, exploring Lorraine’s thoughts and feelings as she searches for Callum.

During the game, players find that there have been many accidents at the theme park. These are disturbing and include people being crushed by bumper cars, a Ferris wheel worker falling to his death, and the discovery of a dismembered child. According to creators, the idea behind the game is to capture the tone of a Stephen King novel.

Although some computer users are already criticizing The Park for being predictable and too much like other games already on the market, Google writers said they had fun with the twisted, H.P. Lovecraft-style story. They also recommend the survival horror game Noct for those of us who might find The Park a bit too tame.

Google Redesign Focuses on Shared Interests

Almost everyone loves social networking, and it seems a new social network bursts onto the technology scene every day. Google is no exception. The search engine’s attempts to create its own social network started with Google+ in 2011. At the time, Google+ was designed to compete with Facebook. However, its design, which attempted to connect people through “circles,” wasn’t received well.

Now, Google+ is revamping the “circles” design with Reddit-like communities. These communities seek to connect people with particular interests, such as books or astronomy. Additionally, users are able to set up collections of curated posts that speak to their interests. For instance, a teacher who uses Google+ might have collections of posts related to Common Core, popular grade-level literature, or new techniques for teaching mathematics. Fellow users could see and comment on these posts, allowing the teacher to network and get new ideas for the classroom.

Not all communities are based around occupational networking, though. Thanks to the Google+ redesign, users can log into networks to discuss fun activities such as their favorite computer games. Players of games like Ingress can use the new network to plan face-to-face, game-centered events. This allows all the speed and convenience of a social network while keeping users from feeling isolated.

Additionally, Google+’s new design can handle much larger amounts of content than other social networks. On Facebook or Twitter, for example, it is often difficult to share content with large groups of friends. Users must customize posts, requiring them to weed through long friend lists and taking up valuable time.

Google+ allows users to share content much more quickly. In addition, content can be shared from group to group. If a user is part of a book group and an exercise group, he or she could share content about the latest diet book without customizing posts or setting up “secret” or “closed” groups.

The Google+ redesign is being rolled out gradually. It now uses cloud-based photo editing that previously belonged to Google Photos, and gave its chat room, Hangout, its own website.

Trends in Wearable Tech

September promises big changes for the wearable tech industry. Major tech companies are upping their game to go beyond the Apple Watch. Here are the highlights.

LG Watch Urbane Deluxe

The South Korea tech company is combining fashion and function with their newest wearable tech, being unveiled in September. Crafted with 23 karat gold (more durable than the 24 karat gold we associate with fine jewelry) and alligator leather, the watch retails for $1,200. That’s a steep price to pay for the average consumer, but it’s a fine alternative considering that luxury Apple Watches can set you back as much as $10,000.

Lenovo Moto 360 II

Lenovo announced its plan to unveil its next gen smart watch on the Chinese social network Weibo this week. The Moto 360 II will feature a rose gold face, better resolution, and more sophisticated battery power than its predecessor. It is also rumored that the company will release a water resistant sport model with GPS and a hybrid display.

Huawei Watch

The Android Wear watch will feature a round circular display and swap-able wristbands. According to the company, the built-in heart rate monitor will be more sensitive than the Apple Watch. Compatible with Android and iPhone, pre-orders start September 17 and retails for $349.

Tencent QQ Smart Watch For Kids

The fear of losing your children can be pushed to the back of your mind, thanks to this new smartwatch from Tencent. Designed with kids in mind, the watch has built-in GPS and wifi. It even has an SOS button for kids to press when they are in trouble. Though it’s expected to hit American markets by the end of the year, there is no price tag yet. The Chinese company did say that they expected it to be “very affordable.”

As summer fades and holiday shopping season looms on the horizon, tech companies are unveiling their newest gadgets. From the sports lover to the lover of luxe, there is a wearable tech for everyone.

Are Google’s Cars Too Safe?

Since 2009, Google has been working on cars  that will take you where you want to go with the push of a button, no driver required. For a while now, you’ve been able to see them petering around Google’s Mountain View campus. There is one problem, though: Google’s cars might be just too perfect.

A Stickler for the Rules

A Google car is designed to follow the exact letter of the law. In a perfect world, this would be a good thing, but there is a rather large caveat: human drivers are far from perfect. Most of us don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs unless there is a police officer in view. For the Google car, this was a large problem: in one scenario, the driverless car came to a complete stop at a four way juncture. Human drivers continued to inch forward, and since the Google car is designed to wait for others to come to a complete stop, the program was paralyzed. Drivers zoomed away from all directions.

Humans and Computers Don’t Mix

Google has reported 16 fender benders since the inception of the program in 2009. All of these, according to Google, are the result of human error. In the latest accident reported on August 20, the Google car (rightfully) slowed to a stop in front a crosswalk to let a pedestrian pass, and was rear ended by a sedan.

A New York Times report said that the automated car had other issues: in one instance, the car swerved abruptly to avoid a poorly parked car; in another, it swerved harshly to the right to avoid a car that it sensed was speeding.

So how do you teach a car to drive defensively? It’s something that Google researchers will have to perfect before automated cars go mainstream. In any case, it seems like it will be a while before we commute with robots.