Moving Zwiftly into the future

In the ever-changing world of technology which is increasingly relied on for convenience, things are taking a turn for the physical in eSports. Gone are the stereotypes of gamers being couch potatoes who lounge in their man caves, there’s a new breed of gamer and they are drastically different from the ones you might think you know.

August 29, 20184_30-6_00 PMRoom 204

Credit Jade Du Preez.

But gaming has come a long way – the 70s was the golden age of the arcade game which actually forced gamers to leave their homes and game in public, the 80s saw tech like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore VIC-20, 8-bit computers that you could code your own games on (you plugged it into your TV!), then the 90s saw more handheld gaming with the Game Boy console finding a new niche in the market, then the turn of the century ushered in the most popular age of gaming and eSports captivated the world.

eSports is different from just gaming at home – you take part in a tournament that is often live streamed to people around the world, and not just anyone takes part, it’s normally always the upper echelon of players who battle against one another. It’s the cream of the crop and there’s normally a lot of money at play.

The prize pool for Dota 2’s The International 2018 tournament was over $25 million and people have been making a living out of eSports gaming for years now, and that looks like it’s going to stay as Fortnite creators Epic Games are looking to offer $100 million in prize money for tournaments during the 2018-2019. Dota put $38 million in for the previous season ($25 million of that going into the International 2018 tournament).

There is serious money backing eSports, with millions at stake, and that’s a drastic change from when Dennis Fong (also known as his gamer tag of Thresh), recognised as the first professional gamer, was playing Quake and Doom. Over his career, he made roughly $16,000 and famously won a Ferrari 328 that was owned by id Software CEO John D. Carmack. The players who finished 17th and 18th in the International 2018 tournament made $63,830.00 – that’s almost four times Fong’s entire career winnings.

But where are things changing? Yes, gaming has become a spectacle watching by many and held in huge arenas, but where does it go next? The answer could be helpful in cycling and running video game Zwift. It allows users to connect their turbo trainers (stationary bike technology that gathers data on performance) to their account and cycle indoors whilst playing the video game which simulates a world. You can connect with friends across the globe to cycle together and the video game aspect comes with power-ups (short performance enhancing the character on screen).

So, if eSports was like a game of chess, Zwift is like playing chess whilst on a bicycle peddling up a steep hill – not easy at all. The video game really comes into its own when Zwift introduced their eSports league – the KISS Super League – which enables four Pro Continental, nine UCI Continental teams and two Zwift community teams to race each other for 10 weeks on Wednesday nights.

 

A Zwift spokesperson told EN4News: “We are now in an exciting position because we are able to connect the Zwift community with the lofty heights of the professional peloton. KISS will be a demonstration sport, illustrating how we can do this – the KISS Super League will provide high octane action for spectators worldwide featuring some of the best riders in the world.

The KISS League, however, provides an accessible eSports league for the rest of the Zwift community to compete in. It’s important that we recognise both ends of the spectrum. This is just the beginning for Zwift – we have big ambitions and will be unveiling our big plans for 2020 in the very near future.”

Is this the future of eSports gaming? Gaming whilst physically racing on a bike is immersive and highly skilled, incredibly addictive to watch and possibly one of the coolest new steps for eSports. You might not physically be able to defend yourself from demons and the undead like Dennis Fong did in Doom, but you can conquer volcanos and Alpine-like mountains in Zwift. Ushering in a new age of fit gamers, Zwift’s contributions to eSports are ones to watch.

If you want to hear more about gaming from the EN4News team, check out Liam Mackay’s Review of Battlefield V!

 

VAR in Scottish football? – Podcast

VAR

SPFL managers have called for VAR technology to be added to the Scottish game. (Photo credit: SounderBruce via Wikipedia)

Following a meeting between the Scottish Premiership’s managers with the league’s match officials last week, there has been calls for Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) to be added to the referee’s list of technology they have at their disposal.

However, with the cost of the equipment casting judgement to when we are likely to see it implemented in Scotland, can the top flight afford to wait any longer?

David Ronney, Luke Barry and Graham Miller sit down and discuss.

EN4News in Numbers

Don’t have time to read the news? Here’s 6 interesting statistics we think you should know about, but don’t worry, we kept it short and sweet so you don’t have to read loads to get your news.

2.4

Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News

Netflix Vs YouTube: The battle for online views

bird-box-wide

Netflix Original Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first month. Image: Netflix

Netflix released their earnings report last night, and the most interesting part of it is where they say that they have lost most of their viewership to people watching Fortnite on YouTube, rather than HBO or Hulu. 

Netflix’s quarterly earnings report revealed a bright future for the streaming giant, with Netflix having more than 139 million paying subscribers, adding another 8.8 million over the past three months.

Netflix claims it owes its success to Netflix Originals. Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock,  was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release and Elite, a Spanish drama, was watched in 20 million households within its first four weeks as well. Analysts have estimated that Netflix spent $13 billion on original productions over the past year, and Netflix says that their spending is likely to increase.

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix addressed its competition, saying that it isn’t concerned about rival streaming services such as Disney+ or Amazon Prime, but are trying to win against all entertainment options. They said: “we compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO.”

Netflix added that “when YouTube went down globally for a few minutes in October, our viewing and signups spiked for that time.”

It is no surprise that Netflix feels threatened by YouTube — the Google-owned website rakes in amazingly high watch times, with over 1 billion hours of YouTube being watched every day. This is more than Netflix and Facebook Video combined.

We know that Netflix creates award-winning original content, so why does YouTube give Netflix so much competition?

YouTube is available in 80 languages, which is 95% of the online population and is free to use. Although there are advertisements on YouTube, it does have a premium service that removes ads. YouTube Premium costs £11.99 a month and the price of Netflix in the UK ranges from £5.99-£9.99 a month. YouTube premium is more costly, and in my opinion, the benefits of a subscription do not come close to what Netflix offers. This, however, does not change the fact that standard YouTube comes free.

Although the premise of YouTube is that anyone can upload essentially any video they want, the quality of these videos has increased dramatically. Expertly made documentaries, groundbreaking journalism and hilarious comedy sketches are becoming more and more frequent on the site. The average length for a YouTube video is only around 10 minutes long so a user can ‘dip in and dip out’ with little to no commitment, while most shows on Netflix have 30-60 minute long episodes.

The video creator, the ‘YouTuber,’ has become a phenomenon in itself. These YouTubers have become celebrities in their own right, some earning way above the average salary. People can identify with them because almost all YouTube channels began from humble beginnings, and they have achieved success from little more than hard work and commitment.

PewDiePie

YouTuber PewDiePie currently has over 81 million subscribers, currently the most-followed creator on the website.

A testament to YouTube’s popularity is the Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie, who has more than 81 million subscribers. Although subscribing to a channel on YouTube is free, it is still worth considering that one man has over half the number of subscribers as Netflix.

Netflix also mentioned Fortnite as a competitor, a video game that has achieved stunning and rapid success in the last year. Fortnite has streamers (people who stream themselves playing games to a live audience) and is increasing in popularity incredibly fast. Tyler Blevins, or ‘Ninja,’ became the first person to achieve five million followers on Twitch, and he also has over 250,000 paid subscribers on his channel. It is no wonder that Fortnite caused Netflix concern, it was a totally unexpected phenomenon.

Although YouTube may be causing Netflix’s numbers to drop, I don’t think there is any cause for concern. They both cater to different entertainment needs, and I can’t see one putting the other out of business. There will always be a place in the market for television shows and films, and nobody can predict how YouTube will continue to grow in popularity – but I am certain that the two can co-exist in a world where online content is essentially endless.

 

 

InSight lands on Mars

After months in space and a truly harrowing entry to Mars’ atmosphere, NASA’s InSight probe gently touched down on Mars.

The Insight probe — the full name of which is actually Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — touched down safely on Mars’ Elysium Planitia at 7:52pm on the evening of Monday November 26, making it the eighth successful unmanned mission to Mars in the history of mankind.

WATCH: The moment InSight touched down:

At at a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California Insight’s Project Manager Tom Hoffman remarked “I’m very, very happy that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and boring looking landing location”.

Elysium Planitia, located in the northern hemisphere and near the equator of the red planet, is a soft sandy plain on the Martian surface — a perfect spot for InSight to carry out its life purpose: to study the geology of Mars’ core.

Essentially an interplanetary geologist, the InSight probe is distinct from the famous Mars Rovers, in that the probe will remain in place for the duration of its mission. It will dig deep into the Martian crust, searching for so called marsquakes and drawing a picture of what lies beneath the surface from the data it collects.

“In the coming months and years the history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars” Michael Watkins, JPL’S Director predicted in the press briefing.

Before the mission can officially start, more definitive checks will be carried out to assure the spacecraft’s on-board equipment and mechanics have survived the tough entry into Mars’ hostile atmosphere.

InSight entered the planet’s atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and slowed itself down to a walking pace in around seven minutes. A combination of rockets and parachutes allowed the craft to land safely on the plain, which has been described as being as horizontal as a car park in the famously flat Kansas.

credit to Nasa - Scott

NASA’s probe InSight. (Photo Credit: NASA)

The landing concluded a journey which began in May 2018 and 300 million miles away on planet Earth. The Insight probe was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the May 5, 2018, from an Atlas V-401 Rocket, making it the first Mars’ mission launched from the west coast of the United States as opposed to Florida on the east coast.

 

InSight was closely followed by two NASA CubeSats — miniaturised satellites about the size of a briefcase — called Mars Cube One or MarCO. These types of satellites are easily and relatively cheaply sent up to orbit earth but this mission marks their first use deep in our solar system, offering the possibility of improved communications and data collection infrastructure in deep space.

Probes over People

The landing is great news but looking at the bigger picture of deep space exploration you might be moved to ask — where are all the people?

It’s a good question and it is one that is getting asked more and more of late. Since the discontinuation of the shuttle program in 2011, NASA’s operations have become a lot more geared toward unmanned scientific exploration.

Think of deep space milestones of late; the curiosity rover on Mars, the New Horizons probe responsible for beautiful close ups of the dwarf planet Pluto, and now Mars’ InSight.

Since the last mission to the Moon in the 1970’s there have been no humans beyond low-Earth orbit. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic first landing on the Moon and see private companies like SpaceX inch ever closer to perfecting their own space launch systems, the question regarding when humans will next explore deep space in person will become central to U.S space policy.

Under the current administration NASA has received a slight increase in funding to just under US$20 billion — a rather modest amount as federal agencies go — and outlined goals for a permanent presence on the moon as the main deep space goal acting as a way station for an eventual trip to Mars.

Credit to NASA

The hope is to station humans on Mars in the future (Photo Credit: NASA)

The fundamentals of these plans pre-dated the Trump administration as the space agency developed a new Space launch system and deep space craft called Orion.

Some outlandish proposals have been put forward by the Trump administration, such as the so called “Space Force”— an American military presence in space. The idea has been met with derision, with Former U.S. Navy Captain and retired Astronaut Mark Kelly tweeting that it was ‘a dumb idea”.

However, NASA’s official line remains true to the goal of putting humans on the red planet.

Only exploring low earth orbit might seem like having stayed in the shallow end of the pool but it has been responsible for falling costs more reusable space technology and so more access to space.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine reckoned optimistically in InSight’s post landing press conference when asked will humans will get there; “I’m going with the mid 2030’s”.

China bridges the 26 mile gap

After nine years of construction, Chinese President Xi JinPing has unveiled the world’s longest crossing bridge, linking Hong Kong to China’s mainland. 

The bridge, which cost an estimated US$20 billion to build, is set to be a life-changing invention for Chinese citizens who want to access Hong Kong and Macau from the mainland city of Zhuhai.

Spanning over 54km (26 miles) and covering 21,500 square miles of China, the bridge assists with a larger plan to expand 11 cities in the region, with the cities of Hong Kong and Macau home to 68 million people in total.

“I declare the Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge officially open.” – President Xi JinPing, October 23, 2018

So far, the making of the now famous bridge hasn’t been easy, with 18 workers reported to have lost their lives during the construction process.

With 400,000 tonnes of steel to assemble, the new bridge has enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers, which in itself, weighs an impressive 10,000 tonnes. The design is also said to withstand an earthquake magnitude of eight and is also typhoon-proof, which are known natural disasters in the region.

The Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge is expected to drastically decrease commuting time from four hours to just 30 minutes, meaning people can easily travel to and from Hong Kong’s international airport.

Originally set to be unveiled in 2016, the longest bridge in the world is now open for business, setting the tone for China’s futuristic vision.

International Insight

Joanna Hampson brings you the latest EN4 international news brief for Tuesday October 23.

Here are today’s top stories.

  • The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly planned days in advance. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed he has strong evidence to suggest Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the 2nd of October. In his address this Tuesday, to the MP’s of his ruling party, President Erdogan confirmed that 18 people had been arrested in Saudi Arabia over the case, but is yet to release further information regarding the details of the evidence. For live updates from the investment conference in Saudi Arabia head to the Guardian.

 

  • The world’s longest sea-crossing bridge has finally been opened in Zhuhai, China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has officially opened the bridge, which connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai, spanning 55km (34 miles) of water. The $20 billion bridge took nine years to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns. To watch the video ‘flying over the world’s longest sea bridge’ head to the BBC.

 

  • Poland’s first openly gay politician has said progressive policies can win in the countries local elections. After the ruling Law and Justice party suffered setbacks in local elections at the weekend, Robert Biedroń who stepped down as mayor of Słupsk to launch his own pro-European, “pro-democratic” movement, has now said that progressives can win. Biedroń’s own political trajectory, as a young, former LGBT activist who was elected to the Sejm in 2011, strides towards a modern Poland, advancing on the common view of the Catholic country. The Guardian report on the advancements of the upcoming elections in more detail on their website.

 

  • Donald Trump has warned that the US will bolster its nuclear arsenal to put pressure on Russia and China. Speaking to reporters, the President repeated his belief that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which he has threatened to leave. Russia continues to deny these allegations.

In Business

 

  • UK based vacuum cleaner manufacturer, Dyson, is set to build its new electric car in Singapore. The factory will break ground in Singapore later this year with the first car scheduled to roll off the production line in 2021. Dyson has said Singapore was chosen for the project based on the availability of engineering talent, regional supply chains and proximity to some key target markets. With a vast budget of £2 billion committed to the plant, Dyson will be focussing largely on research and development and test track facilities.

 

  • Co-founder of the Benetton clothing firm, Gilberto Benetton, has died at the age of 77. Benetton founded United Colors of Benetton in Italy, with brothers Luciano and Carlo and sister Giuliana, in the 1960s. Considered as one of the most powerful families in Italy, Benetton himself is credited with diversifying the clothing company into a multi-billion euro giant. United Colors of Benetton is known for its provocative advertising campaigns which have previously featured images of prisoners sentenced to death in America and, more recently, displayed images of migrants being rescued from the Mediterranean.

Podcast: Advances in cinema

1

Picture of Edinburgh Filmhouse. Photo credit to Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Recently, the mobile network EE launched a competition for a community to win a “Cinema in the Sky” experience.

With popcorn delivered by drones, and the screen 100 feet in the air, is this an experience cinema-goers would like?

For EN4News Podcast, Joanna Hampson, Michaella Wheatley, and Calum Wilson discuss the advances cinema has made in past years and will make in the future.

Edinburgh Airport announce a new app for disabled passengers

The welcome app, created by Neatebox, is designed to allow passengers to personalise the assistance they require and request assistance from the airport in advance.

The Edinburgh Airport passengers with Reduced Mobility team will then receive a notification letting them know that guests are on their way and will be sent extra tips on how best to aid the individual.

Edinburgh Airport said the app is yet another provision they offer to ensure the airport is open and accessible to all, regardless of their needs. They recently became the first airport in Scotland to be recognised as autism friendly. Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airports Chief Executive, told Insider: 

“It’s also good to work with local businesses and implement innovative approaches to passenger needs – we pride ourselves on being innovative and we are confident our accessibility will continue to improve with the introduction of Neatebox.”

Research carried out by Euan’s Guide showed 92% of disabled people do not feel confident visiting new places due to concerns about accessibility. Neatebox want to help improve lives through the use of smart technology. They hope that the ‘Welcome’ app will help promote Scotland as the ‘epicenter of innovation’.

Welcome app | Credit: Neatebox

EN4News spoke to Gavin Neate, Co-Founder of Neatebox, about the inspiration behind the innovative app and why it is so important in a customer service environment.  

“ When it comes to disability, we need to have so much more information now. Everyone likes to be interacted with differently. If you go up and you were instantly happy and friendly towards someone with autism, that might not actually be what they need. Therefore if we knew what somebody’s needs were before we met them, then that would be brilliant.

70% of people who are disabled have hidden disabilities. We generally think about providing service for people who have obvious disabilities – a blind person, a wheelchair user, someone with a walking cane. Things like autism, epilepsy and dyslexia – these are all disabilities a person has to self disclose. If you’re standing at a bank or if you’re in a hotel or a Starbucks queue, the last thing you want to do is talk to the person behind the counter and explain.”

Neate added: 

“ I think this Welcome can potentially be massive. We’re also installed with Royal Bank of Scotland, DoubleTree Hilton, the Scottish Government. Ultimately, this could go everywhere. It could help everyone. We don’t just want to help a disabled person get better service, we want to help the customer service person give better service.”

The announcement comes on the same day, East Lothian council announced controversial changes to disabled services in Edinburgh.

Humans & Robophobia

In the news recently, there has been a lot of coverage towards more ‘human’ looking robots that are becoming ever more advanced and capable.

What this brings is a hope amongst the scientific community that we draw closer to a positive coexistence, that will potentially enable the quicker integration of such robots into our society.

However, there are aspects of human nature that are causing that process to consider a theory that was coined by a Japanese professor in the 1970s. Robotics professor Masahiro Mori led pioneering work on the emotional response of humans to non-human entities. His theory, known as ‘the uncanny valley’, is the idea that when robots resemble humans but not quite, it can create eeriness and revulsion in people. This leads to some robots being seen as cute and endearing, such as Honda’s ASMIO, but others as being too disturbingly close to humans.

maxresdefault1

Honda’s ASIMO, created in 2000 | Image Credit: Youtube

The work by a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, strives to overcome ‘the uncanny valley’. Working in collaboration with NASA’s Valkyrie programme, they are working to create biped robots that can move like humans in the hope that they can be used to help human astronauts exploring Mars.

A single Valkyrie unit costs a cool £1.8 million pounds, weighs in a 125kg and stands at five foot 11 inches tall.Valkyrie’s on-board vision systems and bipedal locomotion, responds to simulated cramped and difficult-to-navigate surfaces to mimic the capsule and space walks a future generation robot might encounter one day.

Researchers from Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Valkyrie | Image Credit: University of Edinburgh

Whilst there is an ongoing debate over creating robots in the image of humans, there are scientific advantages to doing this. Professor Sethu Vijayakumar who is part of the team at Edinburgh University, states the practical benefits of a more human looking robot:

“Bipeds are very good at moving in the same space that is designed for humans.
“We are very good at squeezing through narrow spaces, climbing steps and tackling variable footholds.
If you have a robot with wheels or is a quadruped then you have to redesign the entire space for the robot.”

On the other hand, in terms of further integration wih humans, an argument can be made that it is not how the robots looks that matters but more about how it behavies.

Dr Mary Ellen Foster of Glasgow University, works closely with robots and studies human-robot interaction as well as social robotics. Her current work involves the integration of robots into our every day lives. Since March 2016, she has been coordinating the MuMMER project which aims to develop a socially intelligent humanoid robot that is able to operate in a public shopping centre.

Dr Foster feels that’s making robots look like us ‘is not the way to go’ moving forwards.

“They need to be able engage in social interactions, their understanding of cues and gestures is more important towards human-robot interaction and building sustainable personable relationships with us.”

%d bloggers like this: