Popular Science News
Roboray, developed by the University of Bristol and Samsung, brings engineers a step closer to a robotic SWAT team. The 4.6-foot-tall biped uses mapping software to help it get its bearings, and a suite of 53 actuators provides unprecedented agility. Roboray can 3-D–map its surroundings on the fly, enabling it to quickly navigate through an environment and around obstacles without GPS.
Height: 4.6 feet
Weight: 110 pounds
Vision: Head-mounted stereo cameraArray
The new plugs and receptacles will be bilaterally symmetrical, so never again will you try and fail to plug in a USB plug because it's upside-down! "Users will no longer need to be concerned with plug orientation," says the press release calmly.
The new USB standard, called Type C, will not connect to existing USB ports, but that's a small price to pay.
Though it was the first manned mission of the program and the was the first to fly after three colleagues were killed in the Apollo 1 fire, Apollo 7 is probably the least well remembered of all Apollo missions. It wasn’t a glamorous flight to the Moon or an exciting test of the exotic lunar module. It was a shakedown cruise of the core Apollo spacecraft, the command and service module (CSM), in Earth orbit. The goal was straightforward: demonstrate that this vehicle was up to the challenge of supporting the demanding lunar landing missions.
The crew is similarly unfamiliar to those who don’t immerse themselves in spaceflight history for both work and pleasure. Commanded by Mercury and Gemini veteran Wally Schirra, rookies Donn Eisele (Command Module Pilot) and Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot) rounded out the crew. Both were assigned to shakedown flight because Deke Slayton, head of the astronaut office and the man behind crew assignments, felt they were perfectly competent but generally weaker than some of their colleagues. Neither was likely to fly a second Apollo flight; Slayton was planning to transfer both the Apollo Applications Program in short order.Eisele's 1964 astronaut portrait. NASA Eisele joined NASA as part of its third class of astronauts in October of 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the US Naval Academy, a Masters of Science in Astronautics from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and flight experience at the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base under his belt. But it was a lucky dislocation that landed him a spot on the Apollo 7 crew.
Eisele was originally assigned to the prime crew of Apollo 1, a shakedown cruise of the Block I CSM. Apollo 2 was, at the time, scheduled as a second Block I CSM flight to carryout any further tests and checks NASA might have missed on Apollo 1. Apollo 3 would debut the Block II CSM, the advanced version that could dock with the lunar module on missions to the Moon. But in the course of training, Eisele twice dislocated his left shoulder in NASA’s hollowed out KC-135, the aircraft flown in parabolas to give astronauts brief periods of weightlessness. The long bone in his upper arm dislocated laterally, and on January 27, 1966, he entered the Methodist Hospital in Houston for surgery. He was expected to make a full recovery, but wouldn’t be fit to fly on Apollo 1. He switched places with Ed White, becoming the CMP for Apollo 2.
A year after Eisele’s surgery, a fire on the launch pad killed the Apollo 1 crew and forced NASA to step back, regroup, and addressed the obvious problems with the CSM. By the spring, the agency was getting back on track with unmanned mission on deck and the first manned crew in training. The former Apollo 2 crew of Schirra, Cunningham, and Eisele was reassigned the first flight, Apollo 7.Eisele and the "What's his name?" mug. NASA But a nagging shoulder injury wasn’t Eisele's only persistent issue on his path into space. His surname had been mildly problematic as well: no one seemed to know how to pronounce it. Pronounced like “EYE-se-lee,” variations were both abundant and creative, and nothing changed when he joined NASA.
At one point in Apollo 7’s training, the crew went to NASA’s Michoud facility in Mississippi where the Saturn boosters were being built. Administrator Jim Webb introduced the crew to President Johnson, and when he came to Eisele he stumbled over astronaut’s surname. He pronounced it like “Isell.” From that point on, Schirra decided, Eisele would be known simply as “Whatshisname.”
When Webb publicly announced the crew’s assignment on May 9, 1967, he pronounced all three surnames correctly. And when the mission launched on October 11, 1968, Eisele’s name was similarly pronounced correctly by both NASA representatives and newscasters. But within the agency, the nickname stuck. The Apollo 7 crew was known to their support and ground crews as “Wally, Walt, and Whatshisname.” And now, photographs from the launch day breakfast with Eisele’s “What’s his name?” mug front and centre will preserve his somewhat unfortunate nickname for the ages.
Sources/Further Reading: Donn Eisele's NASA (JSC) Biography; Wally Schirra’s autobiography, “Schirra’s Space;” “Chariots for Apollo” by Brooks, Grimwood, and Swenson, January 27, 1966 press release regarding Eisele’s shoulder injury and surgery; "Deke!," Deke Slayton's autobigraphy written with Michael Cassutt.
Between this penguin and this eagle, it has been a good week for incidental animal selfies. Travel company G Adventures set up a GoPro camera on a visit to Antarctica, when a penguin apparently decided to examine the equipment more closely.
Yes, yes. Cute. But did you know, as I just learned, that penguins have spiny tongues for trapping wiggly fish and devouring them? That is evil, penguins, and makes this photo 80 percent more diabolical.
Brown cows may not actually make chocolate milk, but pink silkworms do produce pink skeins of silk, a team of scientists has discovered. To see if they could produce pre-dyed silk—silk that comes colored, straight from the source—the team fed ordinary silkworms mulberry leaves that had been sprayed with fabric dyes. Out of seven tested dyes, only one worked, producing a thread that reminded me of pink-dyed hair.
And yes, the worms themselves take on some color before they weave their silk cocoons. Their colorful diets did not affect their growth, the team, which included engineers and biologists from the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in India, reports in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. (The researchers didn't look too deeply into how the dyes affected the silkworms' health. After all, silkworms die when people harvest their silk.)
The team investigated dyeing silk this way because coloring fabric normally uses enormous amounts of fresh water. The water gets contaminated with dangerous chemicals in the process, requiring costly treatment before factories can dump it back into waterways—or wreaking havoc when factory owners dodge cleanup rules.
Dyeing silk directly by feeding silkworms would eliminate those water-washing steps. Scientists are just starting to study this idea, however, it remains to be seen if it's commercially viable. In this experiment, the Indian team tested seven azo dyes, which are cheap and popular in the industry.
The scientists found different dyes moved through silkworms' bodies differently. Some never made it into the worms' silk at all. Others colored the worms and their cocoons, but the color molecules settled mostly in the sticky protein the worms add to their cocoons. That sticky stuff gets washed away before the silk is turned into fabric. Only one dye, named "direct acid fast red," showed up in the final, washed silk threads. By the time it made it there, it was a pleasant, light pink.
With the Holiday Season in full swing, many families will turn not to the tried and true tradition of inviting a new addition to the family. Pets are considered to be a popular choice amongst many developed countries and the benefits to owners have been well documented. There is even hope that pet ownership can be a factor in improving psychosocial behaviours in children with autism. From a purely psychological perspective, the idea of a pet appears to be a win-win situation for everyone.
From a microbiological perspective, however, the introduction of a pet into the home may have unwanted consequences. Much like humans, animals have a unique microbiome the composition of which may not be entirely healthy for humans and lead to pet-related infections. A number of specific pathogens, including Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium and Toxocara are commonly found in both dogs and cats. An even greater variety of infections can be acquired from non-traditional pets. Then there are the infections associated with those annoying pet insects such as fleas. More recent evidence has suggested that our pets might be harboring antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.
The dilemma of pets and infections has caused such a stir that public health officials are actually vetting public awareness of the risks and have made calls for better education. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that pets be avoided for certain populations, such as those with comprised immune systems. Others still believe that the entire microbiomes of all companion animals need to be elucidated in order to truly understand the risks.
But are pets really the harbingers of our demise? Or much like our own experiences with microbiome-related illnesses, are we simply facing a different challenge that requires a little more thought and prudence.
I reached out to Dr. Christina Karkanis, a veterinarian and the owner of Bay City Animal Hospital in the Northern Ontario city of North Bay. Karkanis has experience in all forms of domestic animals as well as livestock and over her 20 years of experience, has seen her fair share of infections.
“I completely understand why public health officials are concerned. As a vet, I’ve had a few nasty wounds from bites and scratches although my strangest encounter was a Cryptosporidium carrying snake that kept me under the weather for a week. You have to expect the unexpected.”
Karkanis’ experiences also offer perspective on her opinion of the risks of infection from pets. In her estimation, the more exotic the species, the more one needs to be educated. “When it comes to exotics, especially those reptiles, chelonians and lizards, new owners require more education both for the pet's wellbeing as well as their own. For example, there have been numerous reports of Salmonella associated with turtles. The bacterium is natural to these animals but can cause serious disease in humans.”
But for the usual companions – dogs and cats – Karkanis believes that people should be more concerned with the source rather than the risk. “New pet owners should be advised to be selective about the source of their new pets. Puppy and kitten mills, like any high intensity animal operation, carry more risks. When adopting from these operations as well as rescues it may be advisable to visit your veterinarian with your new pet prior to taking them to your home so that they can be checked and/or treated for ectoparasites and endoparasites if not done already.”
But even if the pet is adopted from an organization in which all the checks and balances have been performed, there is still a need for increased hygiene. While many believe this will help to prevent human infections, as Karkanis points out, it offers a two-way benefit.
“New pets will bring in new germs, that is a given. But you also have to realize that the animal will also become exposed to your germs. You could be carrying bacteria, viruses or parasites that could either colonize or harm an animal, turning them into unsuspecting vectors or victims of disease. In one case, I saw a dog acquire Giardia not because of its excursions in the environment, but because its owner who had the parasite forgot to close the lid of the toilet.”
This experience has also been shown to be the root for pets that carry antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, such as MRSA as well as Escherichia coli. This phenomenon, known as within-household sharing suggests that microbiologically speaking, pets are essentially a true part of the family.
As to the paradox, Karkanis is skeptical. “I really don’t see a paradox but rather the same problem seen in other areas where infections happen, including healthcare facilities, public gathering places and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) farms. People need to be aware of their environment and also of the risks associated with them.”
But she is also quick to point out that much like young children; pets are unable to do much to ensure they are safe. This means that a greater burden is placed on the owners to keep everyone healthy through hygiene and regular checkups. Yet, these needs should not lead people to avoid bringing a pet into the home. From her perspective, these requirements make the relationship even stronger.
“A pet provides so much more than a microbiome and I believe we need to focus on that. While there are no guarantees that there won’t be an infection, I am proud to say that I haven’t personally experienced infection transmission in either direction when the owners practise elementary hygiene and keep regular medical visits. But as I know as a mother, a veterinarian and a pet owner, these actions, while medically sound, are really about care. Whether it’s a child, a patient or a pet, as I’ve learned over two decades, a little caring can go a long way towards everyone’s health and happiness.”
Italian biologist Enrico Bucci originally developed his startup's software to make scientists' lives easier. The software is a search engine that automatically pulls images from published scientific papers. Say you're studying a certain cancer. Bucci's software can collect for you a bunch of images of gel electrophoresis experiments—a common type of experiment in biochemistry—having to do with the cancer you're studying. Handy, right?
But as he was developing his software, Bucci noticed several duplicated images of "gels," as they're called. That is, it seems that in their papers, many scientists were claiming they ran numerous gel experiments that gave them the same results. Instead, they published images of the exact same gel, or parts of the same gel, pretending they were different experiments. Bucci's findings have already led to the investigation of one prominent cancer researcher in Italy, Afredo Fusco of the University of Naples, Nature News reports. Fusco likely won't be the last. Bucci has found that one in four papers run through his software have "anomalies."
Any editor reading a paper before deciding to publish it should be able to see if the paper has copied gels in it (Although this doesn't always happen). What's helpful about Bucci's software is that it's able to compare gels made by the same scientist over his or her entire career. If a cheating scientist copies gel images in several different papers, an editor would be hard-pressed to catch it, but Bucci's company software will find the similarities.
Bucci and his company are now analyzing the papers of tens of Italian scientists their software has red-flagged, Nature News reports. They had originally used the software to compile a list of scientists whose names appear as authors on three or more retracted papers. There are a million names on the list, too many for them to investigate, so they decided to focus just on their own home country.
According to a study conducted by the Library of Congress, 70 percent of American silent films are lost--and a good portion of the remaining ones aren't exactly in great shape, either. Of the 11,000 films made before "talkies" came into the picture, only about 3,300 are left. Of those, 17 percent are incomplete, and some, like the only missing Greta Garbo feature, The Divine Woman, are down to a single remaining reel. What happened?
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington explains in the study's foreword that, with the rise of sound, silent movies were seen as having little commercial value. As myopic as it comes across from a 21st-century vantage point, silent films were lost to "chemical decay, fire, lack of commercial value, cost of storage," and most film producers were content with unsentimentally moving on toward the Next Big Thing. From the study, here's the breakdown of what we lost, and what we have left:American Silent Feature Film Survival Library of Congress
With a more complete view of what we're missing, we might be able to better prevent losing more. Anticipating that, the Library has also released a searchable database filled with every silent feature still around.
[via The Verge]
Baleen whales have no need for Q-tips. Water blocks off the ear canal, which has a unique anatomy, so over time wax builds up into what researchers call an earplug. Previously, scientists counted the layers of wax, like counting tree rings, to help determine a whale’s age, but a team at Baylor University in Texas recently discovered that the gunk contains even more information. Because fluctuations in hormones and chemical exposures are documented in the earwax, it can provide a chronological archive of a deceased whale’s life. And while blubber samples can yield one data point on exposure, earwax can reveal when that exposure happened—details that weren’t available before now. Museums have hundreds of earplugs from the baleen whale group, which contains 14 species. So far, the Baylor team has used one (about a foot long) from a male blue whale to figure out when it hit puberty, what pollutants its mother passed along during nursing, and when it encountered pesticides and mercury. Next, the researchers plan to try to answer questions such as how many pregnancies a female has had and whether the noise of passing ships has physiological effects.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Popular Science.
Amid a flurry of text and e-mail alerts, designers tend to forget something critical about smartwatches: They still need to show the time. LCDs wash out in the sunlight, and e-ink is blank in the dark. The Toq’s Mirasol display is the only full-color one that’s always visible. Each pixel is a tiny glass pane; as charge moves through the screen, the pane moves to reflect different ambient light wavelengths—red, blue, or green—to the viewer. An LED provides the necessary light when it’s dark. Price not setArray
By the gram, graphene is the world’s strongest material, but its commercial applications have remained few. Head is the first sporting goods company to integrate it into a product. By reinforcing the Speed Pro racquet with graphene, Head stiffened the frame without adding weight, so players get more power without sacrificing control. $225Array
So this isn't exactly from the point of view of an eagle as much as it's from the point of view of an unlucky mouse. The Gooniyandi Rangers, an Australian Aboriginal group similar to American park rangers, inadvertently captured this video when a sea eagle stole one of their cameras and flew with it some 110 kilometers. They had originally set the motion-triggered camera by a river in hopes of catching some footage of crocodiles. Australian broadcaster ABC News has the story.
The rangers believe the eagle must have been young, because more experienced eagles normally drop captured prey from a great height to kill it, ABC News reports.
Our rookie eagle friend lives in the Kimberley region of western Australia, a tropical area the size of California that's home to many unique animal species.
The MiniMAX is the world’s smallest, most portable x-ray machine. Unlike its predecessors, which are a couple of feet wide and quite heavy, MiniMAX weighs five pounds. It can be whisked to accidents, crime scenes, battlefields, airports, sidelines, and any other place that could benefit from on-the-spot x-ray vision. Inside, an x-ray source about the size of a can of soda generates a beam as powerful as stationary machines, and rather than rely on a bulky transformer, it draws power from a 9-volt battery. The secret to the x-ray source is a blend of special polymers that build up huge amounts of static electricity when brought together and discharge it when the surfaces separate. This year, Los Alamos National Laboratory teamed with Leica, x-ray company Tribogenics, and two others to develop a handheld prototype.
Weight: 5 pounds
Detector: Cesium bromide
Housing: Carbon fiberArray
The Michelin Man's familiar rolls may get a material makeover in the next decade. French tire company Michelin, supported by a subsidy from France's Environment and Energy Management Agency, will spend $71 million (52 million euros) over the next eight years researching whether it's feasible to make tires in part from plant-based materials, the U.K.'s The Guardian reports. Tires are normally made with a combination of natural rubber from rubber trees and synthetic rubber made from petroleum by-products.
The company and other tire and chemical companies are worried about rising prices for their favorite petroleum by-product, butadiene, The Guardian reports. Increased interest in shale gas is behind the expected butadiene shortage, as energy companies shift focus from oil to gas.
Tire companies have also sought to replace the some of the oil that goes into tires with plant-based alternatives, to improve the tires' performance. Japanese tire company Yokohama has replaced a small percentage of the oil that goes in its tires with orange oil and Goodyear announced last year it's researching soybean oil for tires. Such alternatives aren't necessarily better for the environment than regular oil, however. For example, Yokohama "has no idea" whether its orange-oil supplier is particularly environmentally friendly, Popular Mechanics reported in 2012. The oil replacement was about performance, not about the state of the Earth.
Several times a day, human bodies release a stream of data about internal health. Unfortunately, the data comes analog, and so isn't immediately accessible as useful information. Now an infographic from the Cleveland Clinic offers a helpful breakdown of urine colors, from healthy "pale straw" to icky "brown ale." This guide is good for a fast check, but as the Cleveland Clinic recommends, if you think your pee looks weird, it's probably best to go find an actual doctor.The Color Of Pee Cleveland Clinic
As the flu spread across the U.S. last winter—earlier and more seriously than usual—several computer models were watching. There was Google Flu Trends, which famously went awry that season. And there was a nameless model, built by researchers at several U.S. universities, designed not only to track how many people have the flu, but also to forecast when flu instances will peak in individual cities across the U.S.
By the last week of December, the model was able to guess cities' peak week 63 percent of the time, the researchers wrote in a paper published today in the journal Nature Communications. Of course, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Google Flu Trends, keep close tabs on how many people have the flu in the U.S. at any given time. And researchers have long known that in temperate regions, there's a flu season that peaks somewhere between December and April. But this is the first time scientists have predicted when the flu will peak as the season progressed.
In some cases, the model worked up to nine weeks in advance, which is long enough for cities to stockpile flu medicines or launch a it's-coming-get-vaccinated campaign. The model's data didn't go to any policymakers last year, but its creators say they hope their work will eventually help officials reduce the number of Americans who get the flu every year. Even a prediction just a few weeks in advance could trigger cities to tell their residents to wash their hands more frequently.
Although most healthy, young people weather the flu just fine, it can be serious or fatal to babies, elderly people and people with weakened immune systems. Depending on the year, anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 Americans die from flu infections annually.
The new predictor combines numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Google Flu Trends, and a basic flu model the researchers created. It predicted flu peaks for 108 American cities, some with greater accuracy than others. (The predictor fares better with cities that have smaller populations, higher density and smaller areas.) The forecaster has been in the works for a while. Its creators tested a previous version of it on data on flu in New York City.
Here, I unveil an Our Modern Plagues series, which was inspired by Stephen Colbert’s recurring segment Better Know a District. My version—Better Know a Plague—will introduce you to a plague-like critter every month or two, whether it is something we really need to worry about or whether it’s just a bug or parasite that makes us squirm psychologically. A complementary series called Better Know a Fix will explore some of the interventions we use to combat these plagues.
To start the series, I present the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius. I picked the bed bug for two reasons. First, it’s an age-old pest with a recent widespread resurgence. Second, I am writing a book about bed bugs, which makes it an easy target.
The bed bug is a temporary ectoparasite. “Parasite” means that it makes its living by leeching nutrients from another organism. In this case, that organism is you or, occasionally, birds or bats or house pets. The nutrients come from blood. Ecto- means “on the outside,” so this is a parasite that lives outside of its host’s body. Temporary means that, unlike lice or other permanent ectoparasites, bed bugs don’t live on their host, instead only dropping in to feed.
Bed bugs are also called obligate parasites because to make it through each step of their five-stage lifecycle, they require a blood meal (actual scientific term and awesome potential band name). Female bed bugs also must have a blood meal before they are able to lay eggs; the more blood they eat, the more eggs they can make. Usually, they will lay around 100 or 200 in their lifetime. Bed bugs also appear to be immune to inbreeding, which usually amplifies genetic defects. This means a bed bug infestation can arise from a single fecund female.
The bed bug carries out a secretive life. When it isn’t feeding, it hides in tight spaces. It’s true that these spaces are often the seams of a mattress or the corners of a bedframe, but the bugs will also hide in any available crack—the head of a screw, a picture frame, or even a clock radio. Or, perhaps, a suitcase or a purse, which is how they spread between homes, hotels, and virtually any other place where people hang out.Preserved bed bug discovered in an Egyptian archaeological site dating to 1352 BCE Eva Panagiotakopulu
Bed bugs usually feed at night and hide during the day, but they aren’t truly nocturnal. If their host’s sleeping patterns change, so will the bugs’ feeding schedule.
We thought we wiped out the bed bug in the US after World War II and the advent of DDT. In the UK, experts credit a similar dip to the demolition of infested public housing in the 1930s (DDT probably contributed in the following decades). The precise reason why bed bugs resurged over a decade ago isn't entirely known, but it is likely a combination of insecticide resistance, an increase in travel, and changes in pest management tactics.
Although the bed bug’s comeback was a shock to many, we actually share a long history. In 1999, a team of paleoecologicists and archaeologists published a paper describing preserved bed bug remains found at an Egyptian site that dates to 1352 BCE. Specialists theorize the bugs have been with us far longer, possibly first feeding on our ancient relatives 100,000 years ago during the Pleistocene. The hypothesis suggests that when early hominids started living in caves in the modern-day Middle East, bat bugs feeding off those bats shifted attention from one host to the other, and then followed us ever since.
However long we’ve lived with bed bugs, their resurgence over the past 15 years or so is more of a return to normal than an anomaly. Today, the bugs are in every state in the US and 99% of American exterminators treated for them over the past year, up from 95 percent in 2010, 25 percent a decade before, and 11 percent before that. In Australia, the bugs jumped an estimated 4500% between 2000 and 2006. Similar trends are seen in Europe and in parts of Asia, and although some argue the bug’s spread is slowing down, it is still moving from large coastal and cosmopolitan centers to smaller cities and towns further inland.
Bed bugs aren't known to spread disease, although the possibility hasn't been entirely ruled out. Still, even if they're capable of spreading pathogens, it isn't likely a disease would spread very far. Even though they're good hitchhikers, most individual bugs spend their entire life in a single room or home feeding on a small number of people, which isn't the ideal environment for a pathogen to spill over into the population.
I could go on (and on and on). I won’t. But if you'd like to even better know the bed bug, I leave you with the terrifying details of bed bug sex (including a self-penned limerick), new research on how hairy bean leaves might lead to new traps, how researchers are using DNA to track the bug resurgence, a dubious bed bug pill, how to feed bed bugs on blood in the lab, why they are so hard to kill, and why, despite all these efforts, we’ll probably never get rid of this particular modern plague.
After coming up with this series and writing the first post, I realized that there is already a Better Know a Fish blog by Ben Young Landis. So if you’d like to better know any fish, please do go check out his work.
For the fascinating history of how we’ve tried to kill bed bugs, check out “The History of Bed Bug Management—With Lessons from the Past,” by Mike Potter.
If you think you might have bed bugs and are seeking advice, I recommend searching or posting at Bedbugger.com
Bartenders are still using fresh and local produce, but they’re fine-tuning every aspect of the cocktails in which they’re used, from temperature to texture to physical format. In this slideshow we look at some of the cutting-edge equipment used in bars around the world.
Forty-one years ago, Magnavox introduced the first cartridge-based console, the Odyssey. Seven generations later, the boxes have become fixtures in our entertainment centers. What’s not to love? Consoles represent the pinnacle of electronic engineering (the PlayStation 4’s graphics processor, for example, can perform 1.8 trillion operations per second). Yet despite that, it’s been a rough couple of years for console gaming. Sales and rentals of disc-based games, like the ones that are core to the Xbox and PlayStation ecosystems, dropped by 21 percent last year. The console won’t be far behind.
The issue isn’t that gamers have suddenly stopped playing; they’re just getting their games in different ways. Virtual shops, such as Steam, have made it easy to download titles without relying on brick-and-mortar stores. (Digital downloads spiked 16 percent in 2012.) And cloud services such as OnLive stream games directly over the Internet. As a result, developers no longer need to choose between the Sony and Microsoft ecosystems or spend time coding titles for both platforms. Games can now be console agnostic.
Beyond that, what passes for a console is also changing. The Razer Edge Pro, a Windows 8 tablet, can download and render console-quality titles, such as Dishonored and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The Nvidia Shield, an Android-based handheld, can stream PC games. Both devices have powerful enough graphics engines—the Shield’s chipset can handle nearly a trillion operations per second—to drive an image on an HDTV over HDMI and do so with little sacrifice in quality.
In this democratized gaming world, where consumers have more places to get games and more ways to play them, consoles can’t compete. Right now, a couple of people in a basement can release a game instantly in the Google Play store and make a solid profit charging a few bucks per download. And it won’t stop at small start-up vendors. If tablets can play blockbuster games, big-name developers can cut themselves off from Sony and Microsoft too. Consoles are going the way of CD players—and for better or worse, the eighth generation will likely be our last. —Colin Lecher
The Tamron 18-270mm All-In-One™ 15X Zoom Lens: Just One Lens for Every Travel Moment [SPONSORED ARTICLE]