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This week, film director James Cameron announced that he will be making four sequels to his 2009 box-office smash Avatar. Following in the hallowed footsteps of other filmmakers who sought to unnecessarily increase the number of installments that a story really needs, Cameron decided to go big. "He first envisioned two sequels,” Variety reported. "But after meeting with a team of four screenwriters and a group of 'some of the top artists and designers in the world,' he realized that he had way too much material for just two films.” Clearly, no one has told the great filmmakers of our day about killing your darlings. The original Avatar still holds the record for all-time worldwide box office sales. It follows a human’s attempt to infiltrate an alien civilization known as the Na’vi by adopting a Na’vi body. The Na'vi populate the planet of Pandora, which contains a precious metal that Earth-dwellers want to mine. Instead of learning how to manipulate the Na’vi into giving the humans a pass to mine the planet, the main character develops sympathies for the Na’vi, and therein lies the friction. Although the storyline was on the trite side, Avatar at least had world-class graphics and effects, as befitting a James Cameron film. The film is also credited with ushering in an era in which big-budget films need a 3D version in addition to the 2D version. The sequels will have a tight schedule, too—after 2018’s film, the following films will be released in December 2020, 2022, and 2023, according to Variety. source
Reefa posted a topic in Technology NewsWhen Yuuta Banda was just four years old, he suffered a car accident that left him paralyzed, connected to a respiratory machine, and confined to bed for life. But almost two decades later, he’s been able to experience different places, and even find a job thanks to OriHime, his robot avatar. “At first I couldn’t understand what was so great about OriHime, but I gradually learned through using it that [the robot] afforded people with a sense of presence,” Banda told me in an email. “I felt a greater sense of satisfaction as I spoke with people in different places to me through the robot.” OriHime, created by Japanese startup OryLab, is a portable robot about the same height as a laptop screen that acts as an avatar for a human operator. When I first saw it in OryLab’s Tokyo office, it looked like a cross between a power ranger and a sea creature. Its creators argue that screen-on-wheels type telepresence devices like the one that projected US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s face during a 2014 TED Talk can sometimes make it seem like you’re talking with someone far away through a window. Their robot, they say, makes it feel like the person you’re speaking to remotely is actually by your side—embodied through the robot. The startup, which has been supported by angel investors since its founding in 2012, is in the midst of securing its first round of venture capital for its product, which it wants to be used in everything from social settings like parties to serious business meetings. OryLab CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji initially dreamt up the robot when he was unable to attend school for three years owing to an illness. Years later, he met Yuki Akirahime, OryLab CFO, who shared a similar experience when she was confined to a hospital bed for six months as a high school student. The experience led her to miss out on giving a presentation in the US when she won a prize at the Japan Science and Engineering Challenge (JSEC) in 2006. “Yoshifuji and I both had a period where it was hard for us to go outside due to both our physical and psychological states,” explained Akirahime. “If I had had an alter ego, then it could have gone to the US on my behalf, and I could’ve just given the presentation from the hospital in Japan.” Banda, who connected with OryLab CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji via Facebook, has been using the robot for almost two years. He currently performs secretarial duties full-time for OryLab from his home in northern Japan. To control his robot counterpart in the Tokyo office, Banda either speaks directly into a microphone or selects commands by moving a pen connected to a mousepad with his chin. The Wi-Fi-connected, battery-powered, and app-controlled robot has an onboard camera that acts as the eyes for its human operator, flippers that move to reflect its user’s moods, and a microphone that projects the user’s voice. OriHime—whose name comes from a fairytale about a goddess who can only see her beloved, Hikoboshi, once a year—currently has ten moves that range from a nod to show agreement, a side-to-side head movement that means no, and a flipper tap denoting a special phrase (nandeyanen) unique to the Kansai region in the south of Honshu, Japan’s main island, to indicate affectionate disagreement when someone says something a bit dumb. “I’d really like this robot to be used by people [who can’t move] owing to incurable diseases, and for it to provide these people with a sense of purpose within society,” said Banda, who mentioned how people in similar situations to him could also find a way to enter the labor force through the robot. The idea of telepresence robots has always been big in Japan, with veteran researcher Susumu Tachi spending over 30 years perfecting his concept, roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro giving lectures via a lifelike doppelganger android, and entrepreneur Tatsuki Adiyana creating a VR headset that lets people see the world through the eyes of an avatar teddy bear. Yet these ideas have yet to make it commercially—one thing OryLab is trying to change with OriHime. So far OryLab—which has nine employees—has made close to 100 OriHime robots. Fifty have been rented out; some for free and others at a charge of 300,000 YEN ($277) per month. The rest are undergoing testing. The company is aiming to have made at least 300 robots by the end of this year, and want to produce close to 1,000 in 2017. It also wants to bring the robot’s rental fee down to 10,000 YEN ($92) per month. Akirahime explained that the startup prefered renting out its robots as opposed to selling them as the software is constantly being improved based on user feedback. For Banda, who initially worked his way from an internship to a full-time position at OryLab, OriHime has levelled his experience of the workplace, making it a more democratic space where all can participate. “Even now, I’m having my presence felt in OryLab’s office in Tokyo through OriHime. I take part in meetings, attend lectures with the team,” said Banda. “I’m really just in the middle of making up for 20 years worth of hospitalization and experiencing the world.” source
shamu726 posted a topic in FileSharing NewsTwentieth Century Fox has a track record of fiercely protesting its intellectual property. So when a website offering free fitness programs started using names of popular film and TV-series, the company sent a broad takedown request. However, not all claims are legitimate as the 'avatar' program they targeted has no connection to the popular film of the same name. Copyrights and trademarks are an important tool for rightsholders to ensure that their content is not being abused. Unfortunately, they can also be used to censor other content creators. Just last week we showed how legitimate videos we pulled offline simply because they used the word pixels. Today another example of an overbroad content protection effort has surfaced. Darebee, a service offering free fitness programs, was recently targeted by a takedown request sent by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox’s legal department complained to the fitness service about various programs referencing popular film and TV-titles including “Buffy,” “Fight Club,” “Archer” and “Avatar.” Fox’ takedown request Darebee admits that some programs are indeed inspired by popular films but stresses that it doesn’t profit from them. “When we have knowingly used a film name to one of our workouts or a film or comic book character we have done so within the homage, inspiration and fan-created content framework. We don’t sell anything. Our workouts are free and always will be,” Darebee notes. While Darebee doesn’t agree with the request, they decided to remove most of the ‘infringing’ programs to avoid further problems. However, the “Avatar Upgrade” workout remains online. According to Darebee the Avatar reference has no connection with the popular Fox movie. Instead, it refers to the avatars people use online. “The program is based upon the fact that we each have avatars in the digital world and try to improve them any way we can. We can now do the same thing in real life by going through a program with the same name, focused on our real-life avatars.” “Fox or any other corporation do not own the rights to the English language and every word in its dictionary,” Darebee adds, explaining why they’re keeping the Avatar workout program online. In a detailed response Darebee notes that some rightholders go too far in their protection efforts. Motivated by greed, these efforts are hurting other content creators, they claim. “Every company has a right to make a profit. That we totally understand and we do not dispute. But no company has any right to see people solely as dollar signs, or use its apparent size to railroad everyone’s rights in the mistaken belief that it will help it become more successful,” they write. With the help of many volunteers Darebee will continue to publish free fitness workouts. The “Archer,” “Buffy,” “Die Hard” “Predator” and “Fight Club” programs are gone, but the “Avatar Upgrade” remains online. Also, perhaps not totally coincidentally, a new “Fighters Club” program has just appeared online. Source: TorrentFreak
Reefa posted a topic in Technology NewsThis week, Minecraft on all Xbox and PlayStation consoles will receive an update. While some of the new features will vary between the two platforms, they will all share one new addition in common: a free set of female "skins" for the game's main character. The "Alex" skin pack, which launched on the PC version in August and the mobile version in December, will broaden the default options for the game's avatar for all console players on Wednesday. Alex's default style is a mess of red hair tied up in a ponytail that has been drawn in such a way that it appears as pixels on her shoulder. Alex, just like the male "Steve" character before her, comes in eight versions in all, which means Alex also gets a "boxer," "cyclist," and even "Scottish" style. (There's one exception: "Tuxedo Steve" is balanced with "Pantsuit Alex.") This news follows last week's Temple Run 2 update, which added the series' first free default female character. These changes come after a 12-year-old girl wrote a Washington Post story in March in which she concluded that most popular "endless runner" games on iOS and Android forced users to pay if they wanted to switch from a male character to a female one—and that over half of the games didn't offer female characters at all. As that author concluded, "these biases affect young girls like me. The lack of girl characters implies that girls are not equal to boys and they don’t deserve characters that look like them." On Wednesday, PlayStation versions of Minecraft will also get the Simpsons skin pack that launched on Xbox in January, while the Xbox 360 version will be updated with more of the songs that newer-gen versions have already had for some time. (And if you care, there are more 360 achievements as well). arstechnica.com