Games and gear

8bit Harmonica: Blow into your cartridge for music

Back in the day, if your NES or SNES games started to get glitchy, there was one go-to solution: remove the cart from the console and blow into it as hard as you could to clear the dust from the circuits. This would allow you to resume play.

This is the concept behind 8bit Harmonica (which is more like a set of panpipes than a harmonica), a musical instrument created by Basami Sentaku (Japanese for clothespin). Housed in an old Famicom cartridge, it consists of a set of "pipes." These are programmed to reproduce chiptune sounds as heard in the original Super Mario Bros. When you blow into them, you can play music instead of games. … Read more

Sega Dreamcast: Gaming's most magnificent failure (video)

Few gadgets are remembered as fondly as Sega's Dreamcast, and yet this quirky games machine flopped so hard that it forced Sega to quit the console market entirely. In the latest episode of Adventures in Tech, we take a fond look back at the Dreamcast, its ahead-of-its-time innovations, and the reasons why it died.

Back in the game

You'll learn how Sega's final console blew our minds with its built-in Internet powers, and a controller that introduced us to the principles of second-screen gaming, years before Nintendo's Wii U.

You'll also get a look back … Read more

Hallelujah! SimCity finally gets an offline mode

SimCity will finally be able to go offline.

Patrick Buechner, general manager of Maxis Emeryville, confirmed in a blog post on Monday that the developer was working on a mode that doesn't require an Internet connection, which will come in the next update to the city-building game.

An offline mode has been the single most requested feature from SimCity fans, many of whom have been annoyed by the need for a persistent connection, and the server errors and hiccups that come from such a setup.… Read more

Crave giveaway: $250 buying spree from Rakuten.com Shopping

Congrats to Peter R. of Shoreview, Minn., for winning a Boog brief laptop bag in last week's giveaway.

All our CES 2014 coverage this week probably has you thinking about gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets -- the ones you want, the ones you don't want, the ones you can afford, the ones you can't afford. What better time, then, to offer a $250 shopping spree at a site that sells pretty much any manner of gear you could covet?

The buy-what-you want fun comes courtesy of online retailer Rakuten.com Shopping, formerly Buy.com. The site sells an endless array of products -- clothes, shoes, jewelry, toys, fitness equipment, tablets, televisions, laptops, printers, monitors, hard drives, routers, servers, video games, and a lot more. If you win, you're free to buy anything, but we're betting all those CES gizmos dancing through head will steer you right to the Electronics tab. … Read more

The 404 at CES 2014: Where we steamed up with Peter Brown (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Peter Brown checks out the Razer Project Christine.

- Sony at CES: PlayStation Now, "Breaking Bad" and the "wow" factor.

- Gaming exoskeleton to pair with Oculus Rift headset at CES 2014.

- Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype: Head-on.

- Valve's Steam Machine lineup poses massive threat to gaming status quo.… Read more

'RoboCop' has CES 2027 'under control'

Few robots put fear in the heart of criminals quite like RoboCop.

To coincide with this week's CES 2014 trade show, a video -- apparently from CES 2027 -- has been released a bit on the early side to promote the "RoboCop" remake, due to reach theaters on February 12.

In the remake, which takes place in 2028 Detroit, a police officer is critically injured in the line of duty. OmniCorp, the film's corporate bad guy, sees this as its chance to create a part-man, part-robot police officer. … Read more

The 404 at CES 2014: Where your kids are gonna love it (podcast)

LAS VEGAS -- Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Christopher Lloyd arrives at CES in iconic time machine.

- Cutting board + iPad holder: What could possibly go wrong?

- Corning's bacteria-banishing antimicrobial smartphone glass appears at CES 2014.

- Antimicrobial NueVue case for iPhone, iPad kills phone germs dead (hands-on).

- Sleep Number x12 bed with sleep monitor, snore-stopper.… Read more

The 404 at CES 2014: Where we don't give a snitch (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Michael Bay implodes at Samsung's CES press conference.

- Roger Cheng: How I got T-Mobile's CEO kicked out of AT&T's CES party.

- Pebble Steel declassified: Raising the smartwatch design bar without breaking the mold.

- Pebble Steel smartwatch: Steel, sleek, and coming end of January along with an app store (hands-on).… Read more

EmoSpark AI console just wants you to be happy

When someone in a movie tries to give a robot or a computer human intuition, things rarely go according to plan. The machines glitch out and become bloodthirsty killers that risk human lives to adhere to a narrow set of principles, or even worse, they turn into Robin Williams from "Bicentennial Man."

Plus, human emotions are hard to understand. Sometimes we can't even figure out what makes us happy. A group of researchers in the UK claim they have a device that may be able to do just that -- make us happy -- in our very own homes.

A technology development group called Emoshape started an Indiegogo campaign earlier this month to develop "the first A.I. home console," called EmoSpark.… Read more

Ozobot: Tiny autonomous gaming robots for tablets and beyond

LAS VEGAS -- The Ozobot is a little, vaguely spherical robot who just wants to know if you can come out and play. Looking a bit like a miniature R2D2 head, it roams across tablet tops or even offline board games. It's one little gadget for both the digital world and the physical world.

At its most basic, the Ozobot follows lines. There are five sensors on the underside that help it stay on tracks, whether those tracks are digital games on a tablet screen or marker lines on a piece of paper. It doesn't stop there. The Ozobot also sees color and reads flashes, so various combinations of those give it specific behavioral instructions. It may goose it into turbo speed mode, or spin it around, or slow it down. There are untold potential combinations.… Read more