Valve Reveals SteamVR Virtual Reality Hardware


For a company that’s been dragging its heels on Half-Life 3, Valve has been surprisingly busy in the last few months with improvements to Steam, its digital distribution service for games.

From letting you check your frame rate in-game to broadcasting functionality, there have been a host of additions to Steam.

While these have been software enhancements to the service, the company has announced on its blog a virtual reality (VR) hardware system to be showcased at the Game Developers Conference 2015 (GDC 2015) in San Francisco next month.

Dubbed as SteamVR, there are no details on the hardware barring the name. Nonetheless, the company outlined its plans to seek out content creators for SteamVR, asking developers and publishers to check out the company’s demos at GDC 2015.

And though details on what the Seattle-based company’s plans are for virtual reality are scant, it made a mention of a “refined Steam Controller”, and “new living room devices” possibly implying the firm’s long awaited gaming PCs labelled as Steam Machines.

This isn’t Valve’s first foray into virtual reality. Last year, it showed off VR hardware at the Boston Game Jam to developers according to Reddit user jonomf. The fact that this latest announcement has dubbed SteamVR as “previously-unannounced” leads us to believe that it’s something completely different.

Nonetheless, you can expect more details around GDC 2015 from March 4 to 6, at Moscone Center in San Francisco.

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Intel, AMD Reveal Details of CPU Design Advancements at ISSCC 2015


Intel and AMD are amongst the companies presenting papers and participating in discussions at the ongoing 2015 International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. Both companies will be disclosing plans for future chip designs and manufacturing processes, as well as learnings from products rolled out in the recent past.

Intel has shared previews of its planned presentations, which largely deal with the viability of Moore’s Law as transistor widths shrink to 10nm and below. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the transistor count of high-end processors would double every two years, and that has largely held true till now despite the mounting challenges of fabricating smaller transistors.

While Intel’s migration to 14nm transistors was delayed, it has now rolled out successfully with the Broadwell (Core) and Cherry Trail (Atom) product lines. The company has now stated that it expects the 10nm transition to occur smoothly in 2016, followed by a shrink to 7nm in 2018. Now with Moore’s Law in its 50th year, Intel believes there is no reason for it to break down. Beyond 7nm, techniques for improvingprocess tech such as etching with lasers in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength range might become necessary.

According to AnandTech, Intel is also considering 3D stacked dies or using multiple fabrication methods to reduce overall size and power leakage. These methods will be considerably more expensive than the current method of laying out dies on interposer layers, but could still be suitable for certain applications such as low-power portable devices.

AMD detailed the features and enhancements of its next-generation “Carizzo” A-series processor. Carizzo will launch by the middle of 2015 and will be a true SoC (System-on-a-Chip) with integrated Radeon graphics. AMD expects a 40 percent reduction in power consumption as well as “substantial” gains in processing and graphics capabilities compared to current A-series “Kaveri” products.

Specifically, Carizzo will have 29 percent more transistors than Kaveri without increasing die size, and while continuing to use the 28nm manufacturing process. The efficient usage of space created more area for a new Radeon graphics core as well as IO functions generally handled by the motherboard southbridge.

AMD is also optimising power by analysing voltage fluctuations on the nanosecond scale and compensating on the fly, rather than supplying too much current to compensate. Sensors will go beyond the usual measurements of thermal output and current draw in order to help the processor dynamically scale to workloads.

Carizzo will introduce support for Heterogenous Unified Memory Access, which allows the CPU and GPU components to address a joint pool of memory space rather than reserving their own pools. Instructions and data thus do not have to be transferred from one pool to another when required by different execution units, thus reducing latency and improving performance.

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New Digital Pen to Speed Up Compiling of Mark Sheets

A digital pen for transcribing data on the front page of answer sheets can minimise human error and speed up the process of compiling mark sheets, the makers claim.The device set – a digital pen along with a tablet – called ‘Orion LICR’ has been developed by Orion India Systems Pvt. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Orion System Integrators Inc., New Jersey with offices in Kochi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

After an answer sheet has been evaluated, the digital pen can be used to transcribe the marks awarded for each question on the front page, before these are totalled.

When the pen is used to write the marks, the data gets transferred to the tablet via Bluetooth in real time.

“By eliminating manual data entry, the solution expedites the digitisation process and minimises human error,” T. Thomas, an official of the Kochi-based Orion, told IANS.

He said the allotted marks can be seen on the tablet – both in the handwritten form and in digitised format using the pen.

A tap on the check-box on the tab ensures that the correct marks are captured. The data is then instantaneously transferred to centralized servers, speeding up the process of publishing mark sheets.

According to Thomas, universities and schools that manually feed marks into the computer will benefit from the device.

This patent-pending product won the National Award for Innovation in the Testing and Assessment Tools category for the year 2014 at the e-India Innovation Awards function held recently in the state capital.

Many universities, including the Mahatma Gandhi University of Kerala, are seriously considering the use of this digital pen, Thomas told IANS.


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Pebble Time Smartwatch With Colour E-Paper Display Launched via Kickstarter

As planned, Pebble on Tuesday launched the new smartwatch called the Pebble Time on Kickstarter.Pricing for the Kickstarter ‘Early Bird’ supporters of the Pebble Time is kept at $159, while the rest of the Kickstarter supporters will get it for $179. Pebble Time starts shipping in May. All reward watches will come engraved with the words ‘Kickstarter Edition’, and a second-time Pebble supporter on Kickstarter will get Pebble Time with “something extra special” engraved on it.

For the retail, Pebble Time is priced at $199, but its shipping will start after the complete shipment of Kickstarter orders, says the company. At the time of writing, the company with over 14,500 backers had already received nearly six times its project pledge goal of $500,000, with 31 days to go till the end of the campaign.

The third-generation of Pebble – the Pebble Time – comes with a new colour e-paper display, and is slimmer than the original Pebble by 20 percent with a 9.5mm thickness. The company has also included a microphone for responding to notifications.

“With one click, see what’s coming up next. Your timeline connects to calendars, alarms, and apps, organizing all kinds of relevant information along with quick actions. Similarly, recall the past. Scroll back in time to see that email you missed, your step count for the day or the score from the game last night,” said company.

pebble_time_side_official.jpgPebble Time is said to be fully compatible with all 6,500 plus existing Pebble apps and watchfaces. The watch also uses scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass and it is water-resistant like the previous generation Pebble watches. It comes in three colours – White, Black, or Red – and a standard silicone band with black PVD stainless steel bezel for all three. Users can also replace the band with all standard 22mm watch bands.

The company will soon launch a program for the accessory makers and advanced customizers to create straps, covers and docks. The Pebble Time has also got a smart accessory port, enabling hardware developers to build sensors and smart straps that connect directly to the watch.

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