When someone first dropped a Motiv Ring into my hand back at CES 2018, it was so small and light that I thought it was a show-floor dummy. It’s hard to believe there’s any technology inside, let alone an optical heart-rate sensor, a step-counting accelerometer, a Bluetooth radio, and the lithium-ion battery that powers it all.
But the tech is real and so is the Ring, a titanium-clad annulus rated to 5ATM water resistance and available in two colors. Slip it on your finger and the Motiv Ring does much of what you’ve come to expect of a larger fitness wristband: it keeps tabs on your health (awake or asleep) and distills the data into digestible form on a rather beautiful iOS app. The only real downsides: you pay a lot for the privilege, and — for now, anyway — only iPhone users can get in on the fun.
If you’ve always wanted the convenience of a fitness tracker without the bulk of a wristwatch, the Motiv Ring might just be the wearable for you. Click the video above for the full MrMobile review!
Some developers just demonstrate a knack for certain genres and decide to stick with them. It’s not a bad way to go, and since Rayark has already given us several quality rhythm games like Cytus and VOEZ, it’s only natural that the studio might want to revisit that particular music-saturated well again. Happily, what it’s come up with in Cytus II [$ 1.99] is the best kind of sequel, one that should please fans of the first game while also assuring you don’t require any knowledge of it.
What you do need is fast fingers, because Cytus II starts out challenging and only gets harder from there. It’s not so much the intricacy of the game mechanics because there are only a handful of things you’re asked to do to tap notes in time with the music. The presentation is unique, though, because instead of the stereotypical style of notes falling down from the digital heavens, this game features them popping up in different spots around the screen as a line traverses it vertically. You always get a sneak peek at what’s coming next like in classic rhythm games, it’s just done in a different fashion.
While you’re eased into this presentation in the sparse but fulfilling tutorial during the game’s opening credits, it doesn’t prepare you for all the different ways Cytus II throws notes at you the further you delve into it. You’ll find yourself holding some down for different durations (sometimes simultaneously), dealing with tempo changes that make the vertical line scroll faster or slower, rapidly tapping complicated chains of notes in quick succession and more that I probably forgot because it came at me so quickly. Yet pattern recognition and memorization is still your friend, and persistence pays off, so fans of things like Dance Dance Revolution and its many progeny or Guitar Hero and the like will find that aspect comfortable even though this is a very different kind of rhythm game.
One element you might not expect is that Cytus II also has a story, a sci-fi narrative set an indeterminate amount of years in our future. People have apparently “synced” the real and online worlds, and music is a powerful force in both of them. A DJ named Æsir is the most popular music star of all, but he failed to arrive for the first concert where he would show his face, and the mystery of his fate is a topic of interest to both his fans and rivals alike.
You’re free to ignore the story and just enjoy Cytus II for its music and gameplay, but you can’t escape it altogether because of the way it’s interwoven with advancement. Each DJ character has his or her own playlist of songs, only a few of which are unlocked when you start play. Every time you complete a song without failing, you earn XP toward leveling up, but those levels are specific to that DJ. You unlock new songs and harder difficulty levels for previously completed tracks as you go — I didn’t play anything on Chaos level and am frankly pretty scared about what it might mean — but you also hit a level cap that forces you to explore the other DJs’ songs before you continue.
That means you have no choice but to dive into the ‘IM’ part of the game, which is essentially the game’s version of a futuristic chat/message board hybrid. You don’t necessarily have to read everything in there if you don’t care about the tale the game is telling, and some players are absolutely going to skip right past the messages, but you need to at least visit to keep going. On the plus side, any song you play earns you XP even if you don’t set a new record score or combo, even if you’ve played it before, so it seems possible to unlock everything by grinding out your favorite tracks for each DJ if that’s what you want to do.
We haven’t even talked about the visuals yet, which are vastly upgraded over the first Cytus. While that game had its own style, this sequel is just all-around more polished, and everything from the gameplay animations to the story bits reinforces the overall anime-meets-cyberpunk (or whatever we’re calling it near the end of the second decade of the 21st century) aesthetic.
The only real debate comes when you consider bang for the buck. At its launch price of $ 1.99, Cytus II is an undeniably good value, offering plenty of entertainment and content for a couple of bucks. The DLC, however, is a lot more expensive clocking in at $ 9.99 per pack, offering only the equivalent of a new chapter in terms of music and story for several times the original price. It’s nice to have an immediate option to purchase more, and the new songs add even more variety to the mix of dance, EDM and K-Pop you have from the start. You can also start playing the DLC tracks right away without unlocking them within the story, but that doesn’t completely make up for the fact that a $ 2 game turns into a $ 22 game when it’s all said and done.
That shouldn’t stop you from purchasing the base game if rhythm games are your jam though, because Cytus II is a darn good one, building on what its makers have previously accomplished and wrapping it in a slick package. Even if you don’t surrender to its story, you just might to the music. Just be sure to limber up those fingers first, because they’re going to be moving.
Prosthetic Functionality Is No Longer Science Fiction
When Jason Barnes was electrocuted in 2012, doctors were forced to amputate his arm from the elbow down. As a musician, the loss of his right arm must have certainly traumatized and saddened beyond any simple repair.
Two years later, Gil Weinberg, a professor at the Georgia Tech College of Design, and his lab developed a new prosthetic for Barnes that enabled him to play one of his favorite instruments: the drums. The prosthetic arm was equipped with a pair of drumsticks — one controlled by Barnes himself, while the other moved on it’s own and improvised it’s movements based on the music it heard nearby.
Barnes used to also play the piano, but a majority of prosthetic arms available are as of yet unable to provide the level of dexterity required to play such a complex instrument. So after creating the drumstick prosthetic, Weinberg set out to create another device that would enable Barnes to play the piano once again, and he took some inspiration from Luke Skywalker’s own robotic limb. A source the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was inspired by as well.
Despite the amputation of his arm, Barnes still had the muscles required to control his fingers. The problem was the electromyogram (EMG) sensors used in most prosthetic limbs are inaccurate, meaning Weinberg and his team had to find another approach.
“We tried to improve the pattern detection from EMG for Jason but couldn’t get finger-by-finger control,” explained Weinberg. That’s when the team incorporated an ultrasound machine. Working together with other Georgia Tech professors – Minoru Shinohara, Chris Fink, and Levent Degertekin — they attached an ultrasound probe to Barnes’ everyday prosthetic arm.
As explained by Georgia Tech, the muscles movements seen when Barnes tries to move his amputated ring finger are different from those seen when he tries to move any other finger. Using this information, Weinberg and his team fed the unique muscle movements for each finger into an algorithm that’s able to determine which finger Barnes wants to move. Used in combination, the ultrasound signals and machine learning can detect the movements of each finger, as well as how much force he wants to use.
Now, 5 years later, he’s able to play the piano again.
“It’s completely mind-blowing,” said Barnes. “This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we’d be able to do this.”
Incredibly, Weinberg believes the technology used for Barnes’ new arm can also be used for more than music. One day, according to the professor, it could be used to help people with tasks “such as bathing, grooming and feeding.” Considering how it was successful enough to provide enough dexterity for individual fingers to hold a melody on the piano, there’s no reason why it couldn’t enable someone to type on a keyboard as well. Or use a smartphone, play video games, et al.
The potential doesn’t stop there, as Weinberg imagines a time in which even able-bodied people can remotely control robotic limbs by moving their fingers. This is starting to sound like the cyborg character Molly Millions from William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.”
One thing is certain: robotics and AI are going to enhance our own capabilities in a multitude of ways, and we’re on the verge of embracing them completely. As Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert put it: “When we have robots that can do what people and animals do, they will be incredibly useful.”
Scientists have created a more realistic fake finger that they hope will help them improve fingerprint ID technology.
Fingerprint ID is almost ubiquitous now, but they remain the phone’s biggest security vulnerability. Fake fingers already exist, but researchers at Michigan State University have created a more advanced version that can be used to test fingerprint scanners and make them harder to hack. A technical report detailing the process has been submitted to arXiv, a repository of non-peer-reviewed papers. The paper will also appear later in the journal IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security.
It’s not too difficult to create fake fingers to hack a phone. Researchers at CITER have done this using 3D-printed molds…
BBC developed a headset that allows users to control their TVs with only their mind. While the technology is in its infant stages, this could mean that one day you won’t have to lift even an arm to change the channel.