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The Next Xbox at E3 2012? Introducing Xbox 720

Microsoft may unveil its next, next-gen console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles next month. While Microsoft hasn’t officially announced the system yet, industry insiders point to a few reasons why gamers should look out for the machine.


An artist’s concept of the Xbox 720. 

The Future of the Xbox
According to a source with ties to Flextronics in Austin, Texas, Microsoft’s next generation console is already in production. (Flextronics is the company that manufactures the current Xbox 360 and other devices for Microsoft.)

For gamers the next questions are “What features will the machine have?” and “When will it be available?” As far as features go, insiders say the machine will NOT have a Blu-ray player, but will have double the processing power of the current Xbox (hence the 720). Why no Blu-ray? Simple. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a digital-download world: Blu-ray as a format is dying (just compare the prices of Blu-rays against what they were a year ago). Plus, the Xbox 360 already serves up movies (via Netflix) and Microsoft doesn’t plan to add Sony technology to its console anytime in the future.

It’s also been rumored, the Xbox 720 (which hasn’t officially been announced, so it has no release date) will also integrate Kinect and user control in a bold new way. No surprise there, since progressive game design is an Xbox mandate.


Microsoft bought product placement in the movie “Real Steel” to promote two products – its search engine and another product – the unannounced Xbox 720. Hmmm…

Next Gen is In
The current next-gen systems are beyond their life cycle; in the past, new consoles would have already been introduced. But Nintendo was late in introducing the Wii and thanks to motion controllers like Kinect and PlayStation Move, Microsoft and Sony have found a way to extend the lives of their current consoles. (Nintendo has said it will release a new console this year: the Wii U.)

The Xbox 360 is still the best-selling video game console. So it’s no surprise that Xbox 360 game development is still big business, even though sales are down. How big? As of the first of the year, video games are a $1.06 billion dollar business. Industry analysts have cited that Microsoft may try to support both the 360 and 720 for a period. Now that’s smart business.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog,Video Game Design and have No Comments

Advanced Robotics: Flying Machines and Puzzle-Solvers

Every passing day, robots are learning more and more. Each day, our computerized counterparts are becoming smarter. Just think about it: in the time you spent reading this blog, robots just mastered another key to their evolution.


Japan’s Ministry of Defense unveils the worlds first flying robotic orb.

Those Magnificent Flying Machines
You’ve probably seen walking robots. Well, now joining their ranks are flying robots. Recently the Japanese Ministry of Defense (JMD) introduced a orb that could fly through the air. The orb has a eerie similarity to the flying robots in The Matrix – or the hovering interrogation droid from Star Wars.

The robot hovers, floating through the air like a bird, spinning and turning on a dime — just like the robots that chased Neo. For now, a remote operator controls the orb. And thanks to on-board gyroscopes, the robotic sphere that weighs less than a pound stays afloat with ease. According to JMD, the robot was made for rescue and reconnaissance: “It can take off and land anywhere. This machine will be able to reach places that were hard to access by air before.”

The flying machine costs around $1,400 and is made from parts you could probably buy at your local Radio Shack.

Problem-Solving Robots
If that video weren’t enough to demonstrate how far robots have come, here’s another. How about a robot that has been trained to master the great intellectual feat known as solving Rubik’s Cube? “RuBot” is programmed to scan and analyze a Rubik’s Cube — and figure out the quickest, most efficient way to solve the classic mechanical puzzle:

Rubiks Cube, which was invented in 1974, is now solved with ease by RuBot. 

As robots become more powerful, the question ultimately becomes, “How can I keep robots from taking over my town?” Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to that question. Robots have found their way into almost everything you come into contact with on a daily basis, from hospital surgery to traffic lights. The best thing to do is to try to help the robots now in hopes that your assistance will be appreciated later…after they take over.

Join The Robot Revolution
But why fight them? Join them! Learning how to take control of robots has never been easier. With LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotics kits, for example, you can build a variety of robots, including specialty ‘bots that perform complex tasks, such as climbing a rope.

At Digital Media Academy computer camps, students in the Adventures in Robotics course not only learn what makes robots tick; they also build robots and battle ‘em, too. After a busy week in which each student has been individually issued their own LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotics kit, campers pit their best battling bots against each other in a Sumo robot competition (just like the robots in Real Steel).

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Reel Steel: The Best Robot Movies

In the future, robot fighters are the stars of the boxing ring. In the new film Real Steel, Hugh Jackman uses a joystick to control Atom – a punching-bag robot who is more or less a metallic Rocky.


“Get in there and show ‘em who’s boss!” 

Before running into Atom, Jackman tours with another robot which he trains to duke it out in a back-alley slugfest. For robot junkies, Real Steel is heaven. But if you can’t get to a theater, there’s still a way to quench your thirst for metal. Entertainment Weekly recently polled its readers to find out what they considered the best robot movies of all time. We broke down the results:

WALL-E (2008) 22%
Pixar’s plucky little recycling bot won the poll hands down, pulling in a whopping 22% of the votes.


Maybe WALL-E is so popular because it’s one of the most recent robot movies out there, and we admit it’s one of our favorite Pixar films. Still, we couldn’t believe the computer-animated flick beat out…

Star Wars (1977) 17%
C-3PO and R2-D2 are probably the most famous robots EVER. And they’ve got six – count ‘em, six - Star Wars movies to prove it.


What a pedigree: One of the robots (C-3PO) was built out of spare parts by Darth Vader (see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). 

Terminator 2 (1991) 17%
And the third most-famous robot film is Terminator 2. T2 stars the T-800 Terminator, the robot role that helped transform Arnold Schwarzenegger into one of the world’s biggest movie stars.


Terminator 2 also features another awesome robot…the shape-shifting T-1000.

I, Robot (2004) 6%
Another major action hero, Will Smith, plays a cop in the year 2035, who investigates a crime committed by a robot. The film was based on Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi novel.


Will Smith headlined I, Robot, although the real star of the movie is Sonny, a high-end glossy bot that has superhuman powers (but then again, so do most robots).

The Iron Giant (1999) 8%
Vin Diesel voices The Iron Giant, the Jolly Green Giant-sized alien robot that a boy befriends in order to save him from a paranoid government.


An animated classic, The Iron Giant was directed by Brad Bird (who also directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille).

Blade Runner (1982) 9%
Flying cars, building-sized video screens and an ultra-modern Los Angeles are the backdrop for this futuristic noir flick.


The robots in Blade Runner are bad guys and they’re being tracked down by Harrison Ford. The lifelike robots are called replicants, and they never show their metal skeletons.

Short Circuit (1986) 5%
Before WALL-E, the robot in Short Circuit, Johnny #5 (who bears an amazing resemblance to WALL-E) was the little tread-wearing robot that ruled theaters.


“Who’s Johnny?” Short Circuit is an 80s classic.

Transformers (2007) 12%
Isn’t Optimus Prime a truck? At any rate, the giant bots from Transformers not only invaded theaters but had enough power to grab 12% of the vote.


Optimus Prime: Part robot, part truck.

Other 4%
How can you overlook the Steven Spielberg classic A.I.? Sure, the film is a little dark, but Spielberg’s loving portrait of a robot who thinks he’s a boy is amazing on so many levels.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Long before video games or Real Steel or LEGO robot battles, the original butt-kicking robots could be found in toy stores (where they’re still being sold). “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” is Mattel’s two-player action toy boxing game, which features two plastic robots that face off against each other, not unlike the robots in Real Steel. The human “manager” for each toy robot uses two simple joysticks to control the robots, which throw jabs and hooks at each other’s head until one player scores the knockout punch that makes its opponent’s spring-loaded head pop up in defeat. The toy was first marketed in the 1960s by the Marx Toy Company, and has been produced at various times by other manufacturers (most notably by Mattel). The classic game has been recently remade into a video game and an updated toy.


This was first robot-boxing toy, and its object was simple: “Knock his block off!”

Still, for robot lovers who want to get “real” and build their own robots, there’s only one way to go…

LEGO Robotics
LEGO’s NXT Robotics set is the best way to get into robotics. The kit provides everything you need to design, build and program your very own real robot. You can make fetching robots, task robots or even battling robots.


Take control of real plastic – there are some microchips, gears and a little steel in there, too – with LEGO’s NXT robot.

In fact, robot battles have become a big deal. There are robot battle competitions all over the world, and there’s even a robot battle league. So Real Steel isn’t that far off from the truth. Now there are even robot summer camps, where kids and teens can build and battle bots of their own creation – just like Hugh Jackman does in Real Steel.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Join the Robotics Revolution!

Robotics used to be a hobby reserved for that odd, brainy kid down the street – the geek who was building something in secret, from plans he found in Popular Mechanics. Today’s robots do it all: drive, walk and even clean your home. Today’s robots are smarter and more powerful than ever before – and they’re being built and programmed by people just like you!


A robotics programmer in Digital Media Academy’s Programming & Robotics course.

LEGO’s NXT Robotics Kit: Bits, Bricks & Gears
These days, robot hobbyists are creating all kinds of different robots with the acclaimed LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotics Kit. These custom-built robots have some amazing talents – some can walk, some can drive, some robots even climb ropes. Using everything from pulleys, gears and programmable appendages, these days there’s almost nothing you can’t program a robot to do. LEGO’s Mindstorm NXT kits give builders lots of creative options. But it’s the program’s ease of use and ability to modify robots that has endeared the NXT to a whole new breed of robot-builders. LEGO estimates that the average user can create their first robot with the NXT 2.0 toolkit within a half hour.


“Take me to your leader!”: LEGO’s NXT kit lets you play mad scientist and mechanical engineer.

It’s a simple, component-based system of interchangeable parts that lets you build a variety of programmable robots and other mechanical creations. At the heart of the NXT is an intelligent microcomputer (or programmable brick), that serves as the brain of any robot an inventor might make. The brick contains a 32-bit microprocessor, a matrix display, input and output ports and a communication link that uses Bluetooth and USB technology.


The LEGO NXT brick and sensors.

The brick works with three interactive servo motors which can be attached to arms or legs; these robotic appendages carry out the motion programmed into the brick. The 2.0 toolkit gives builders 612 individual pieces of LEGO robotics hardware, and the kit features different types of sensors that can guide a robots actions according to sound, touch, and color information received by the brick.

This Means (Robot) War!
Robots are more popular than ever, so where is all this robo-mania headed? Why, straight to the fighting arena, of course! And we’re not talking about Real Steal, the new sci-fi action flick starring Hugh Jackman as a robot-fight trainer in the future:


Hugh Jackman trains and programs rock-em’, sock-em’ robots.

No, this battle is for real. It’s a battle of robot-maker against robot-maker. Where tricked-out fighting robots declare war on each other, and go head to head in a battle royal. At Digital Media Academy, students in the Programming & Robotics course compete to build the perfect battle robot (or Sumo-bot), and end their week-long session by waging a robotic sumo competition to see whose techno-creation can kick the most robot butt.

As hobbies go, building robots is one pastime that could not only challenge your brain, but help provide a future career. If you want to learn mechanical engineering, building robots is a great way to get started.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments