Games and gear

Bitcoin-operated arcade machine is a game changer

There's something satisfying about the sound of a quarter rolling into an arcade game and plinking down with its brethren somewhere out of view. You won't get that noise if you try out Liberty Games' rigged-up Bitcoin arcade machine, but you will get to play your choice of Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, or any of dozens of other classic games.

Liberty Games took a Cosmic II full-size arcade multigame cabinet and modified it to accept Bitcoin payments. You scan a QR code on the machine with your smartphone and then pay up in exchange for game credits. Once paid, you're free to blast away at the old-school video-game baddies.… Read more

The 404 1,419: Where it's open tax season with Aunt Jill Schlesinger (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Make way for GameSpot's Ultimate Upgrade Sweepstakes.

- The smart guide to financial aide.

- Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.

- Ventev: Idiot proof, Aunt Jill approved travel chargers.

- Follow Aunt Jill on Twitter.… Read more

Lightsaber-style foam swords log your battle scores

Remember those telescoping toy lightsabers? You used to do battle with your siblings or friends, but nobody could ever agree on who actually won the fight. There won't be room to argue if you're using Sabertron foam swords from Kickstarter.

The glowing swords each have a health meter above the hilt, marked by strips of green, yellow, and red LED lights. When the swords strike blade-to-blade, they make a clashing sound. When the sword hits anywhere else, like on your opponent's arm, the health meter goes down. Run out of health and you lose the match.… Read more

Microsoft's Kinect recruited as Korean border guard

Microsoft's Kinect now has an overseas job, though it doesn't sound too glamorous.

A Kinect-based software system designed by South Korean programmer Jae Kwan Ko has been assigned border guard duty at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, Kotaku reported on Monday, citing Korean news site Hankooki. The system's job is to identify any living thing that tries to cross the border and determine if it's human or animal. If it's a human, then the system alerts the authorities.… Read more

Flappy Bird is the embodiment of our descent into madness

It was after around the 14th or 15th time I'd seen "Game Over" flash across my iPhone screen in the last maybe seven minutes that I decided that the app Flappy Bird -- an experience so simultaneously simple and maddening that I could already picture it haunting my dreams -- was perhaps the worst smartphone game ever created.

I had hit a high score of 12 on my fifth attempt, finding myself secretly elated at the speedy proficiency of my mindless tapping timing. And then I proceeded to lose after earning a single point -- literally just one successful obstacle cleared -- about 10 times in a row. Before I knew it, I was sitting there at my desk, heat crawling up the back of my neck, ready to shake my phone in frustration like a '90s kid ready to dismantle his NES controller during the "Turbo Tunnel" level of Battletoads.… Read more

Crave giveaway: Power Practical PowerPot V portable charger

Congrats to Barry J. of San Antonio, Texas, for winning part 2 of our CES swag giveaway last week. This week's prize is hot. Well, it will be after you place it on a gas or electric stove, or over a fire or other heat source.

The PowerPot V from Power Practical is a compact 12-ounce thermoelectric generator you can use to charge your devices. Just plug in the USB charging cable, add water, and place the aluminum pot over your heat source of choice. The PowerPot emits 5 watts of on-demand power. … Read more

The 404 1,417: Where we make up for our shortcomings (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- $40K TV triggers a flurry of hilarious Amazon reviews.

- Oculus Rift at Sundance: Games are just the beginning.

- A virtual-reality train ride reveals a link between height and paranoia.

- A 5-second test can tell if your friends are good at lying.… Read more

Yes, Google does want Glass users to scare you on the street

If there's one thing Google is trying to achieve with Google Glass, it's normality.

It wants you to believe that it's nothing special for someone to walk down the street wearing odd glasses, with a camera attached.

Why, it's even trying to make the glasses look less odd for prescription wearers (with limited success).

Here's a scenario, though. You're walking down the street. In the opposite direction walks a man wearing Google Glass. He is constantly shouting: "Bang! Bang!" … Read more

The 404 1,416: Where some developers just want to watch the world burn (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Verizon Wireless service now available in 35 New York City subway stations.

- Long-rumored Amazon console set for 2014 at sub-$300, says report.

- Nintendo President offers to take 50 percent paycut to atone for disappointing financial results.

- Is this real? Pittsburgh news claims cold weather drains smartphone battery life.

- Rumors point to a February 14 release date for Titanfall beta.… Read more