Researchers develop device that extracts water from desert air

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Researchers at MIT and UC Berkeley have developed and now tested a device that can extract water out of the air even in the driest of climates. The team proposed the device in a Science article last year and now they've improved the design and tried…
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‘Black Desert Mobile’ Korea Launch – First Impressions and Why You Should Care

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It’s time to revisit the MMO scene we’ve been talking about. Black Desert Mobile by Pearly Abyss has officially launched in South Korea on February 28th. So why should you care? Because this game truly feels like something special. I was able to download Black Desert Mobile from the Korean app store using an alternate account and I spent some time with it over the course of a single night. With that being said, the game is currently entirely in Korean, so I had a bit of trouble navigating the menus and finding all of what the game has to offer, but the taste I’ve had so far I have enjoyed immensely.

So what is Black Desert Mobile? First let’s start with it’s big brother on PC; Black Desert Online, which was launched back in 2014 in Korea (2016 in North America), and promised to be a next-gen MMO, showcasing much of the traditional elements of MMORPGs while taking an Action RPG approach to combat that required active aiming, dodging and combos as well as mounted combat. The game received generally favorable reviews and has continued to draw 100,000 concurrent users

Enter Black Desert Mobile. While Black Desert Online may not have entirely changed the MMO game on PC, its mobile counter-part just may change the mobile MMO in a big way. I navigated the first few menus of the game on start-up mostly by tapping on random things since I can’t read Korean, but the flow seemed to match just about every other MMO: account name, server choices and then character creation. Immediately upon arriving at the character creation screen you can tell how this game stands out. The character visuals are stunning for a mobile game and the amount of freedom the creation system allows you is quite immense. I did not get too in-depth with this system as I was afraid tapping one wrong thing may irreversibly maim my character so I let most of it be.

From there I carefully tapped through the server selections and entered the game. Immediately this game stuns you, and it’s not just the incredible visuals. As soon as you start moving using the virtual-joystick you experience the freedom of movement this game allows and how fluidly your character responds to the joystick, very much unlike many other mobile games I’ve played, let alone an MMO. You can also use the right side of the screen to freely move the camera and zoom in or out to any position you want.

The second thing I noticed was the draw-distance, which admittedly seems to have been sacrificed at the cost of the impressive visuals. It’s not entirely jarring, but objects will shimmer and glitch around a bit from a distance not very far beyond your character, but even so I found this to not detract from the visuals very much at all. Time and care was put into character movement, physics and the visuals, that much is apparent right from start-up. Here’s a couple of minutes of footage caught in real-time as I cruised around the world of Black Desert Mobile (sorry the sound cuts out about halfway through for some reason):

As I began to clumsily navigate the first town I was dropped into, the comparisons to Lineage 2: Revolution [Free] from Netmarble were very easy to make, but really only in good ways. There was a small pop-up on the right that I figured out was my quest, which tapping on would send my character trotting off in the direction of the quest-giver or objective, lead by a small black cloud with red eyes that seems to guide you through the game for some reason, though it’s entirely possible to walk there on your own if you so choose. And I chose this option quite a bit when I could as even just walking around in this game feels so fluid and fun that navigating the game didn’t feel like a chore.

It’s worth noting here that the camera freedom this game allows really sets this game apart. While playing Lineage 2: Revolution  with its locked camera angle, I couldn’t help but feel there was no world around me and only what was on my screen was what existed of the world. In Black Desert Mobile, the world comes to life. NPCs walk around the world going who-knows-where, other plays whip around the world, jumping over fences and NPCs, animals follow their owners around while chores are being completed, the game world just feels alive and detailed in a way I haven’t experienced in another mobile game.

After the first few quests which mostly involved following my cloud and talking to people, I entered my first combat experienced which involved killing some shrub-like creatures which I dispatched very easily. Again here, I was immediately struck by how fluid and satisfying the combat felt all while also being visually pleasing. It was a joy to dispatch the poor shrubby little creatures and I killed many more than my quest demanded, just because I was enjoying the combat system. You can also dodge-roll out of the way of enemy attacks and use your skills positioned around your main attack button in the bottom right of the screen. After I had decimated the population of the shrub-people, I tapped on the quest button again and auto-navigated back to the quest-giver, who said some stuff and possibly even gave me a reward, again I really wasn’t able to understand much.

The first few dozen quests had me killing monsters, gathering materials and navigating through some of the other elements of the game accessible through the game menus that I couldn’t read. This wasn’t too much of a challenge due to the first time you do these tasks being very tutorial-like and highlighting things you need to tap, and though I had very little idea what I was accomplishing, I know I upgraded my weapon and fed stuff to my little black cloud.

At this point, I can’t speak on what other features the game has to offer from personal experience due to the language barrier, but I know I was gathering materials at some point and crafting them into other stuff. The game promises a unique skill system that has you farming, smithing, and possibly even sailing if my extremely limited auditory-only Korean is to be trusted.

In short, every moment of the time I spent with this game was an absolute joy to play. Every second of it felt like the missing next chapter in mobile MMORPGs and the potential this game has is ridiculous. I’m super excited to delve more into this rich game-world and uncover what else this very special feeling game has to offer. While no western release has yet been announced, I would be shocked if there wasn’t a launch planned very soon and I for one will be all over it. There’s much more to explore in this game and once a western release happens you can expect a full review from TouchArcade.


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Life Exists in the Driest Desert on Earth. It Could Exist on Mars, Too.

Atacama Analogue

When we think of the potential for life on planetary bodies besides Earth, we automatically look for water. Whether it be growing at the bottom of Europa’s ocean or swimming in Titan’s methane lakes, we look for liquid because we understand the origins of life on Earth likely hinged on its abundant water. But a new study, led by scientists at Washington State University (WSU), suggests that life could exist with minimal water, even on planets as dry as Mars.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study examined the driest corner of the world’s driest desert — South America’s Atacama Desert. Here, decades pass with no rain, and it’s dry enough to be analogous to the surface of Mars.

A hazy half-eclipsed image of Mars. Mars bacteria could have evolved to be similar to those found in Earth's driest deserts.
Could such a harsh environment sustain life? Image Credit: Aynur_zakirov / Pixabay

Scientists have known that microbes exist in these extremely arid conditions, but they have been previously unsure of whether the microbes actually reside in this environment or are simply temporarily moved there by weather patterns. Within this study, the researchers concluded that this desert actually supports permanent microbial life.

The research team visited the Atacama in 2015 following an extremely rare rainfall, and detected a veritable boom of microbial life in the soil afterwards. When the team returned over the next two years, their samples showed the same microbial communities were still there, but had begun to dry out and go dormant, awaiting the next rain.

Martian Conditions

“It has always fascinated me to go to the places where people don’t think anything could possibly survive and discover that life has somehow found a way to make it work,” said Washington State planetary scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, in a press release. Schulze-Makuch led the study as part of his research into Earth’s most extreme organisms, which could tell us something about life through our universe.

Jurassic Park references aside, our research tell us that if life can persist in Earth’s driest environment there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion,” he said.

This doesn’t mean that Mars is secretly teeming with life. However, it does point to the possibility. Because the Red Planet once held liquid water, Mars bacteria could have developed and then, as the planet dried out, evolved to adapt to a niche below the surface. Because Mars is so much colder, similar communities would likely have to live off the occasional melting of soil ice or snowfall on the surface.

The Washington state team will next be exploring extremely cold and salty locations on Earth to study more environments that could parallel those on Mars.

“There are only a few places left on Earth to go looking for new lifeforms that survive in the kind of environments you would find on Mars,” Schulze-Makuch said. “Our goal is to understand how they are able to do it so we will know what to look for on the Martian surface.”

The post Life Exists in the Driest Desert on Earth. It Could Exist on Mars, Too. appeared first on Futurism.


‘Black Desert Mobile’ Launches in South Korea on February 28th

Pearl Abyss just recently held a short 3 day beta test of their highly anticipated mobile title Black Desert Mobile, a mobile version of their PC hit Black Desert Online. Now Pearl Abyss has announced that a launch in South Korea is coming on February 28th. No western date has been announced yet but the title seems to be drawing massive interest as pre-registration drew in over 4 million people in South Korea.

Black Desert Mobile is an Action MMORPG, much like its big brother on PC. The game has a heavy focus on combat but also has a skill system that seems to have quite a lot of depth. Players can take up fishing, crafting, resource gathering and even sailing. Cooperative play is also present for things like boss battles and PvP combat. Black Desert Mobile is attempting to stand out from other mobile MMORPGs with its incredible graphics and fast-paced ARPG style combat with an in-depth skill system much like the PC version, albeit a bit simplified and tweaked to make it more mobile-friendly.

This is quite possibly the headliner of the massive influx of Korean MMORPGs that will be hitting the US markets this year. Boasting PC level graphics, a huge world to explore and a system that mimics the PC version, Black Desert Mobile has potential to be one of the biggest mobile MMORPGs to hit the platform so far. Early reviews and impressions have been very positive, with most praising the game’s sheer amount of content. It’s important to note that Black Desert Mobile will not have cross-platform support between the mobile version and its big brother on PC and not all features are present, with the skill system and others being entirely reworked.

No western release date has been announced but with so many eastern developers looking to make a splash in the west, you can be sure Black Desert Mobile will see a release in North America before too long. With games like Durango: Wild Land also pending for a western release, Black Desert Mobile will have some competition for the top spot in 2018. Keep your eyes peeled for updates as the launch unfolds.


”PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ Reveals Miramar Desert Map at Game Awards

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The game is pure fun and terror (hiding in a bathroom has never been more nerve-wracking), but it also currently comes with only one map, and as large at that map is, it’s starting to get stale. Fortunately, a new map is coming to the game, and it was properly shown off last night during the Game Awards. The new map is desert themed and is called Miramar. While the idea of a desert map usually connotes images of brown monotony, Miramar is actually quite varied, with all kinds of landscape features that will make for some great firefights and even crueler deaths.

The PC update that will add Miramar to the game will also add the new vaulting system, which will make PUBG a more nimble game. Few things are as frustrating as being shot at while running at a low fence and knowing that by the time you get over that tiny obstacle, you’ll be riddled with bullets. I’m very curious to see how the vaulting system will work on mobile or whether it will even make it to the platform. Now all we can do is be patient and hope to get PUBG on our phones sooner rather than later.



Watch the first trailer for PUBG’s new Miramar desert map

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds developer PUBG Corp, the new spinoff company in charge of the battle royale-style PC hit, this week revealed the name of its much anticipated new desert map, Miramar. The map will be the second new environment for the 100-person free-for-all deathmatch title since its March launch on Steam’s “early access” platform. We’ve known about Miramar for quite some time, as the game’s titular lead designer Brendan Greene has teased it numerous times over the months.

But at the Game Awards show this evening, viewers got the first real, in-depth look in an official trailer. We also got a December 20th release date for the map alongside the game’s 1.0 update, which will see it exit “early access” and bring much-needed…

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Desert Bus, the ‘very worst video game ever made,’ now has a VR sequel

Murmurs of a sequel to the mind-numbingly boring game Desert Bus have been circulating since last year and now, it’s finally here, as reported by Ars Technica. Desert Bus VR is free to own for PC gamers and is very much like the original — a torturous, real-time drive from Tucson, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada — but in virtual reality.

For the uninitiated, Desert Bus was originally released during the mid-’90s as a mini-game in the unreleased Sega CD game Penn & Teller: Smoke & Mirrors, but never saw a commercial launch. People only discovered it some years later when Penn & Teller: Smoke & Mirrors leaked online. In the game, you drive a bus from Tucson to Vegas… and that’s it. You can’t exceed 45 mph, you can’t pause the game, and…

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Legendarily boring ‘Desert Bus’ is playable in VR

Back in the late 90s, comedic magicians Penn Jillette and Teller made a mini-game collection for Sega CD that was never released and quietly forgotten. Unfortunately for anyone with taste, one of those was the intentionally awful Desert Bus, which In…
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‘Freeways’, the Traffic Management Game from the Creator of ‘Desert Golfing’, Updated with iPhone Support

Sometimes I wonder if Justin Smith from Captain Games realizes his own genius when creating games, or if he just makes games that happen to be stunningly brilliant. One of my all-time favorite games is Enviro-Bear 2010 [$ 0.99], which is a silly game about a bear driving a car with absurdly difficult driving physics. Beyond its wacky surface, though, there is a ton of depth, and it’s remained on my phone since its original release nearly a decade ago. Then there’s Desert Golfing [$ 1.99]. This totally stripped-down 2D golfing game has you whacking a ball into a hole in as few strokes as possible, moving from hole to hole in stark, barely changing environments until… well, until the world falls into the sun, or something. I guess it technically has an end, but most people will never see it and most don’t seem to care. It’s a perfect mobile game to pop out and play a few holes here and there, but if you squint your eyes just right, you can also pull some deep philosophical meanings out of Desert Golfing. No joke.

There are even more examples, but the bottom line is that Justin Smith makes games that look almost laughably bad on the surface but always have some sort of hidden meaning and depth. I don’t know if that’s on purpose or a happy accident but either way his library of games is a gift to us gamers. The latest Justin Smith release is Freeways [$ 1.99 (HD)], a traffic management sim of sorts, and like his previous games you can’t judge this book by its cover. Your job is to connect specific destinations to a number of different freeways by intuitively drawing the paths right on your screen. Traffic will begin pouring out the moment you create a road, and it’s up to you to create freeway exchanges that let traffic flow freely and allow drivers to get to and from their destinations. Once you complete a map you can check on the efficiency of your design, or lack thereof.

It’s a deceptively engrossing experience, as sometimes you can dream up some wacky design that you figure will never work in a million years and then find out that it’s actually getting the job done. Similarly, sometimes you’ll design what you think is the most ingenious freeway design ever conceived, only to see traffic jams crop up in places you never expected due to problems you never anticipated. Freeways looks like a simple Flash arcade game on its surface, but behaves like a sophisticated traffic management simulation in practice. It’s really remarkable, and yes, a lot of fun too. Never thought I’d say that about traffic management.

Anyway, apologies for burying the lede this far down in the story, but the reason we’re talking about Freeways today is that when it originally launched in mid-September it was an iPad only game, which made sense as the extra screen real estate would be helpful when weaving your complex tapestry of freeways. However, that also severely limited the audience for the game, and following a ton of requests Justin Smith has spent the past month or so making the game friendly for the smaller screens of iPhones, with a new Universal update arriving for Freeways today. Playing it on my iPhone 7 Plus and it seems just fine to me, but your own mileage may vary. What’s important is that we all at least have the option of experiencing this little gem on our phones now, so if you’ve enjoyed Smith’s previous releases or the thought of skillfully managing freeway traffic gets you all excited, be sure to give the newly Universal Freeways a spin and check out our forums for more impressions of the game.