What is 4K UHD? Next-generation resolution explained

As if 3D TV and LED LCD vs. OLED vs. plasma and 120Hz and the Soap Opera Effect weren't confusing enough, in the last year we have seen the rise of a new HDTV technology called 4K. Or if you use its official name, Ultra High Definition (UHD).

UHD is an "umbrella term" that encompasses higher resolutions (more pixels) than HDTV, as well as more realistic color and higher frame rates. Today and this year, pretty much the only one of those improvements available in new TVs and content is 4K resolution, so that's what we'll talk about here. Judging from the new TVs shown at CES 2014, manufacturers are tripping over themselves to bring you a new array of 4K compatible products.

But just like 3D and HD before it, 4K has a case of putting the hardware chicken before the software egg. About 15 months after 4K TVs first appeared on the market , there's little consumer 4K content available: no TV channels or Blu-ray discs, just a few specialized video players, YouTube and other clips of varying quality, and promises of streaming video.

Still, the shift from 1080p to 4K TV hardware is inevitable. This year 4K TVs will replace high-end 1080p models as the best-performing LED LCD-based sets on the market -- although the reason they're better will have nothing to do with resolution.

Confused again? Don't worry, we'll walk you through, starting with the question: So what is 4K anyway, and what makes it different from high definition?… Read more

New iTunes-only 'Avatar' offers rich interactive viewing

Starting Tuesday, "Avatar" fans who buy the mega-hit film on iTunes will also get a set of cool behind-the-scenes interactive features.

For the last couple of years, movie buyers have gotten some of the same kinds of "extras" on iTunes that have long been included on DVD and Blu-ray versions of films. But now, with its new digital download of "Avatar," Fox is stepping up the offerings--"scene deconstruction" that lets viewers "move seamlessly from performance capture to template to final scene."

As part of the package, buyers will get … Read more

My Xbox Live now available for iOS

My Xbox Live, released today, is a universal iOS app that connects you with Microsoft's gaming service for Xbox 360. With this free app, you'll now be able to connect with your personal account on Xbox Live.

With My Xbox Live, you'll now be able to connect with friends, customize your avatar, track achievements, and more, all from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. You can then view your friends' gamer cards, compare your achievements on games, and view recently played games.

In addition to being able to connect with your account and view friends' info, you'… Read more

Photographer exposes MMORPG gamers in the meatspace

Photographer Robbie Cooper explores the modern convergence of personal and social identities in a portrait series that pairs gamers with their virtual avatars.

Cooper traveled around the world for three years, visiting places like Korea, China, France, and Germany to capture the online and in-person lives of MMO participants.

His photo project evolved into a photo book called "Alter Ego" that further scrutinizes the role of absorbed fantasy in the gaming metaverse through interviews, biographies, and essays.

The book also paints a range of identities behind the avatars. It's not just a bunch of oily adolescents mashing keyboards in a basement; Cooper's subjects range from a gold farmer in China, a paraplegic in Texas, and even an octogenarian who all teach a valuable lesson to never judge a gamer by his or her avatar.

Plenty more pictures of gamers and their avatars after the page break.… Read more

Woman attempts to avoid her image for a year

After spending a relatively stressful weekend in St. Louis trying to find the perfect wedding dress, UCLA sociology Ph.D. candidate Kjerstin Gruys decided on the flight back to L.A.--which could arguably be dubbed the city of mirrors--that it was time for something drastic: a year without them.

This was back in March, and her "mirror, mirror...OFF the wall" project would include the six months leading up to (and the six months following) her October wedding.

So far so good, according to Gruys' near-daily blog posts. But as someone with only a tiny bathroom mirror … Read more

Microsoft pushes Avatar Kinect live to Xbox users

Microsoft this morning pushed Avatar Kinect out to Xbox 360 users with its $150 Kinect motion camera accessory.

The software, which was publicly unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at CES in January, tracks facial movements and applies them to the user's virtual representation onscreen. That means if your head is cocked, or your eyebrows are raised, those same motions get translated onscreen. The technology is bundled into the Avatar Kinect software, which serves as a casual chat room for up to eight people in one of 24 virtual scenes.

The new chat tool joins a handful of other … Read more

preGame 56: Bastion

preGame returns with a live demo of the first title off the Microsoft Summer of Arcade line up. Tune in to catch a live in-studio demo of the retro-inspired action-RPG, Bastion!

With summer in full swing, gaming news is a bit scarce, so we've rounded up the best headlines from the past few weeks. We'll get things rolling with a chat about the newly announced Batman: Arkham City Collector's Edition and what gamers can expect to find in the $100 bundle.

Next, we'll discuss the fallout from the ModernWarfare3.com controversy that was forwarding visitors to … Read more

Next Xbox to feature 'Avatar'-like graphics?

The next Xbox could boast a dramatically improved graphical experience, AMD's director of ISV relationship management, Neal Robison, told Official Xbox Magazine in an interview published yesterday.

According to Robison, whose company has been heavily involved in Xbox graphics hardware, the next iteration in Microsoft's console line will come "pretty darn close" to offering the graphical sophistication of 2009 megahit "Avatar." The movie set new standards in computer-generated graphics, and was celebrated by critics and graphical technicians alike for its breathtaking visuals.

Even better for those who want more-realistic gameplay experiences, Robison says artificial … Read more

Google+ faces thorny online identity issues

Google, trying to take a stand with its new social network, requires people to use real-world names on Google+. The real world, though, turns out to be more complex than a simple rule can accommodate.

Now two weeks old and growing like a weed, Google+ is facing issues that became common once the Internet made people's identity into information that can reach potentially anyone on the planet. With Google+ and the Google Profiles service on which it relies, the company is trying to build a service without pseudonyms, anonymous cowards, or impersonation.

"Google Profiles is a product that works best in the identified state. This way you can be certain you're connecting with the right person, and others will have confidence knowing that there is someone real behind the profile they're checking out," according to the Google help files for Google+. "For this reason, Google Profiles requires you to use the name that you commonly go by in daily life."

Most people are known by the name that appears on their driver's license or school registry and probably won't think twice about using that when joining a social network. There are plenty of advantages to that approach: anonymous forums are often degraded by trolling, attacks, and flame wars. Using real names brings some measure of accountability, since your reputation is on the line when you voice an opinion.

But there are acres of gray area, too. Political dissidents may want to avoid persecution. Those who've been harassed may want to avoid more of it. And plenty of people want both online interactions and privacy. … Read more

A*Star converts 2D faces to 3D models

Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has come up with an iOS and Web app that puts your mug shot on a 3D model. By simply taking a frontal image of a face and sending the image via the Internet, A*Star's 3DFM Web server automatically maps it on a virtual avatar head.

This is a much simpler process than the previous procedure of using 3D scanners and then performing tedious post-processing work. According to the organization, the trick now is to create compelling applications and games to leverage on this technology.

For example, you can play soccer games with players sporting the face of your favorite celebrities, or put your mug shot on Master Chief from Halo. This service is available for free for a limited period and can be accessed via this Web site. The iOS app will be available at a later date.

(Source: Crave Asia) … Read more