Mix and match to create funny characters

Slide-a-ma-jig gives the iPhone treatment to a popular children's board-book format, with a touch-screen app that lets children create a huge variety of comical characters by mixing and matching different heads, torsos, feet, and so on.

It's not really a game in the sense that there are no rules or points to score--but that's perfect for the intended audience of young children. The interface is easy to master, accompanied by satisfying sound effects: you start with a silly character (30-odd in all, anything from a hulked-out bodybuilder to a self-repairing robot to a badger-loving fairy), and you … Read more

X Prize group sets sights on next challenges (Q&A)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Having already set private space travel in motion, the organizers of the X Prize are ready to unveil the future of the cutting-edge competitions.

On May 15, at a gala fundraising event to be held at George Lucas' Letterman Digital Arts Center in San Francisco, X Prize Foundation Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, along with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and "Avatar" director James Cameron will unveil their five-year vision for the famous awards.

The X Prize first gained fame for its promise of a $10 million prize to the first private team … Read more

Reporters' Roundtable: ILM on the future of visual effects (podcast)

This show is about one of the categories for the Academy Awards: visual effects. This year, there are three films up for awards in the visual effects category: Avatar, Star Trek, and District 9. We're going to be talking with Russell Earl of Industrial Light & Magic. Russell was co-visual effects supervisor for one of those films, Star Trek, and also worked on Transformers, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and two of the Star Wars movies.

Also joining us is CNET writer Daniel Terdiman, who covers digital media, culture, and gaming for the Geek Gestalt blog on CNET.

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Show notes and talking points… Read more

Cameron pegs 'Avatar' to 3D Blu-ray in November, Fox denies

The 3D TV hubub at CES roughly coincided with "Avatar," the highest-grossing theatrical release of all time, hitting theaters in 3D. It seems natural to assume that the inevitable home video release of the 3D HD version of the "Avatar" Blu-ray would coincide with the introduction of new 3D HDTVs, which are slated to appear as early as May. But according to director James Cameron, that Blu-ray won't appear until November.

"It's all right on schedule," said Cameron during a Wall Street Journal interview. "We'll do the Blu-ray and the … Read more

The 404 Podcast 510: Where we beat up Punxsutawney Phil and smash his freaking cell phone

2010 started off positively: an amazing CES visit, an uplifting State of the Union Address, and an entertaining Grammy Awards show. Yes, 'twas a great January...too bad that filthy, overgrown rat Punxsutawney Phil had to show up and ruin it with a dreary six more weeks of winter, which wouldn't be so bad except that Wilson won't have his iPad for another nine weeks.

Unfortunately, it turns out our furry little friend might be an amazing meteorologist, but his texting skills can use some work. It took Phil over two hours to send out his inaugural text message to awaiting subscribers. Phil took even longer to tweet out his prediction. Come on, Phil, are there no tween girls in Gobbler's Knob, Pa., that you can enlist to speed up your T9-ing? Maybe it's time for an upgrade.

Unfortunate news aside, we've also got plenty of exciting news to discuss, including this year's Oscar nominations! Of course, Avatar's nine nominations only make us that much more embarrassed about all of our trash-talking prior to watching the movie. But hey, we're big enough to admit our mistakes, however, infrequent.

And since that's more than I can say for some directors, we also have to take some time to run down this year's Razzie nominees. Will Transformers 2 take down G.I. Joe for worst movie of the year or Big Momma's House 2 circle back and reign supreme? Listen in to hear our predictions!

As usual, we've also got a few sticker pictures, but it's not even close to the number we've sent out so far, so SEND US PICTURES if you got them in the mail! Send all your tattoo and sticker pictures to the404(at)cnet{dot}com- we want to see them all!

Finally, today marks the premiere of CNET TV's newest show, preGAME! Hosts Jeff Bakalar and Mark Licea bring you all the latest gaming news plus in-house demos of the hottest games a week before they're released. The show starts today and runs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. Check out all the preGAME action on CNET TV!

EPISODE 510 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS VideoRead more

'Avatar,' 'Star Trek,' 'District 9' get visual-effects Oscar nods

In case you weren't paying attention, 2009 was a banner year for big, big visual effects movies.

And the teams that crafted the most impressive work were honored Tuesday morning, along with all the best and brightest in filmmaking, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 2010 Oscars.

Here at CNET News we have a special place in our heart, as you might expect, for visual-effects-heavy movies because of the fantastic amounts of technology and computing power that goes into them.

As usual, the Academy chose just three films as visual-effects nominees. … Read more

'Avatar' Oscars could make Weta household name

Update at 8:25 a.m. PST Feb. 2: "Avatar" has snagged nine Oscar nominations: visual effects, best picture, art direction, cinematography, directing, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, and music (original score).

When the trumpets sound Tuesday morning and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its annual Oscar nominations, could there be any more of a sure thing than that James Cameron's mega-hit "Avatar" will grace the list of visual effects honorees?

After all, while many people have enjoyed the film's sprawling anti-colonialism storyline, there's little doubt that what … Read more

How 'Avatar' may predict the future of virtual worlds

Update at 2:10 p.m. PDT: This story has been modified to reflect both Jon Landau and James Cameron's membership on the advisory board of virtual world platform developer Multiverse.

Since the release of his massive hit "Avatar," director James Cameron has gotten plenty of deserved attention for his filmmaking innovations, having invented a camera system that captured live footage of his actors and integrated it immediately into fleshed-out scenes from his fictional world of Pandora.

But movies may not be the only medium Cameron's innovation is pushing toward the future. In fact, the technology … Read more

Can 3D TV ever replace being at the big game?

If there's one lingering sensation after this year's CES, it's that already big and high-resolution TVs are trying very hard to get even more realistic and compelling to consumers. As proven by movies like "Avatar," 3D can be about more than things flying out of the screen at you like that old Joe Flaherty sketch from SCTV. 3D can be about immersion, and one of the true hoped-for killer apps in 3D TV is sports programming. I'll be the first to admit that I'd be excited about a 3D broadcast of a Jets game; in fact, 3D could help gain perspective on camera angles, and help with sports like baseball in helping keep track of field distances and fly balls. Plus, of course, it would look cool.

Would 3D or any other future form of TV ever replace the experience of being at the game itself, though?

I ask because I am a New York Jets season-ticket holder. My father, Michael Stein--otherwise known as "Jetmike"--has had season tickets for 44 years. He's been at Shea and Giants Stadium and even the Polo Grounds since the Jets were the Titans, and has only missed games to go to medical school in Italy (where, sadly, he missed the 1969 Jets Super Bowl). He also is a huge home theater buff; he owns a Pioneer Kuro TV and has 7.1 surround in his living room media center. I asked him whether there was anything that could lure him to give up being at the game and stay home instead.

He had no hesitation in his answer. "I go for the camaraderie," he said. "At the game, 80,000 people become one."

I can attest to that, as we both braved 19-degree weather for the final Jets game at Giants Stadium on January 3 for a remarkable night football experience. But our viewing angle, despite having good mezzanine seats, is far from ideal. A TV broadcast can zoom in and show slow-motion replays. Being at the game can show the whole field, but TV already has an advantage in quality.… Read more

The 404 Podcast 503: Where everything was better in the '90s

In typical 404 fashion, this morning's show started later than usual, mostly because we couldn't shut up about all the things that made the 1990s one of the best decades ever.

Some of the conversation leaks into the beginning of the episode, including a chat about the evolution of video games since the '90s. It's hard to imagine a time before you needed a toy chest to hold all the plastic instruments you need play a simple game!

You can get your 404 fix every day of the week (thanks to Nick for the image above!), but the most random stories always end up on Friday. Today is no different, with Wilson's first story about mysterious cookies that offer "natural supplemental endowment." Called the F Cup Cookie, the treat is quickly gaining popularity in Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, because of their promise to increase bust size in three weeks or less! Rest assured, we've already ordered three boxes to test the claims ourselves.

Should the film industry provide heart health warnings prior to showing movies with heavy 3D imagery? It might be worth the discussion, especially after a 42-year-old Taiwanese man died after watching "Avatar" in 3D.

The man started to feel uneasy during the screening of "Avatar" in 3D and was quickly taken to a hospital where a scan showed a brain hemorrhage. Sadly, the man died 11 days later. Doctors reported that "the over-excitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms," a claim that opens up our conversation about possible preshow warnings.

We've spent all week stuffing your SASEs full of 404 stickers, and if you already got yours in the mail it's YOUR turn to do some work for US! Take a picture of where you stuck your 404 sticker(s) and tattoo(s) and send it to us at the404(at)cnet(dot)com. If you do, there's a good chance we'll show it on the air! Take a cue from Cheryl, the Official 404 Grandmother who sent us a picture of her grandson fully covered in them! Nice work, Cheryl!

EPISODE 503 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS VideoRead more