Are you Superman or Voldemort? Avatars may affect the real you

Video games have long provided a safe way for players to try out different personalities. In the land of pixels and pretend, we can try out the role of lithe, attractive do-gooder elf or become a hideous orc who leaves a trail of havoc (and dead elves) in our wake.

Most of us probably assume that after the game is over, we return to being simple boyfriends, moms, teachers, or accountants operating according to our own moral principles, regardless of the virtual personas we took on. New research, however, indicates that this just might not be the case. … Read more

Glow-in-the-dark plants could soon light up your home

When it comes to living things that glow, a plant is probably your best bet for a low-maintenance conversation piece to have in your home. It's much easier to deal with than a jellyfish, or even a glow-in-the-dark cat. Bioglow is preparing to offer its bioengineered Starlight Avatar autoluminescent ornamental houseplants to the public.

Other glowing plant companies have popped up (notably the Glowing Plants project on Kickstarter), but Bioglow has been leading the movement ever since molecular biologist Alexander Krichevsky created what the company calls the first light-producing plants and published his findings in 2010.… Read more

FaceRig maps your face onto a 3D avatar in real time

Ever have days where you're not quite feeling yourself? Soon you may be able to make yourself into someone else -- at least online.

A team of veteran game developers from Romania have built what they're calling FaceRig, a piece of software that maps your facial movements in real time onto the head of an animated character. The project's currently making a run on Indiegogo, where it has far surpassed its $120,000 fundraising goal with 28 days left to go in the campaign.

Although the use of such software would at this point be highly limited in actual games, its purpose -- at least initially -- is a little more realistic. The idea is to stream the resultant output to Skype, Twitch, or any other Webcam-based service. The program uses real-time image-based tracking technology developed by Sweden's Visage Technologies, and audio processing to alter your voice to make you sound more like a character. … Read more

Review: Avatar Fight lets you click buttons

Avatar Fight is a free, low-budget fighting game in which the outcome is decided for you. It is easy enough that some may enjoy creating a character that can defeat most of the competition, but most who play Avatar Fight are going to be disappointed.

You can sign up for an account with Avatar Fight or register as a guest, and then choose from only eight avatars. Unlike most "avatar"-based games, you cannot customize your character. You have to choose one of the limited number of character designs. There are no instructions, nor is there any background … Read more

Why Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki, and Na'vi are real languages

If you've spent a couple decades studying, learning, and speaking Klingon, then you probably already know in your gut it's a real language. Linguist John McWhorter has your back.

McWhorter explains in a short Ted-Ed lesson how certain made-up languages can qualify as real languages. He investigates Elvish from "The Lord of the Rings" books and movies, Klingon from "Star Trek," Dothraki from the "Game of Thrones" world, and Na'vi from "Avatar." These all qualify as fantasy constructed languages, better known as conlangs.… Read more

You could lose weight when your avatar exercises

When I was a varsity swimmer in high school, I was taught creative visualization, which is a fancy way of saying that I would sit in a quiet place, close my eyes, and imagine myself in an upcoming race -- stroke for stroke. I could feel the temperature of the water, the pounding of my heart, the overwhelming urge to breathe as I sliced through the water without once turning my head for air. It was a mental rather than physical exercise, and for me at least, it translated to faster racing times.

For years, researchers have investigated this phenomenon, and now a new little study out of Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education finds that watching an avatar model healthy behaviors can actually help women lose weight in the real world.… Read more

The 404 1,265: Where we build weapons of mass distraction (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Today I learned Dave Chappelle was in a "Home Improvement" spinoff that was actually made.

- Twelve things that will get you banned on Xbox.

- You won't remember anything, including this article, unless you print it out.

- Senate passes Internet sales tax bill by 2-to-1 margin.… Read more

Xbox SmartGlass for iOS adds more console interactivity

Much like the former Xbox Live app, Xbox SmartGlass (free) gives you the Xbox 360 Dashboard experience, letting you do things like view your avatar and info, see your friends' bio and game lists, and track and compare achievements.

With this latest version of the app, you get a lot more ways to interact with your console. You now have the ability to type using your iPhone keypad rather than the old hunt-and-peck Xbox controller method; you can browse the Internet on your Xbox using your full iOS keyboard; you can play, rewind, and fast-forward videos; search the Xbox game … Read more

Poll: Will you be buying the 'Avatar' 3D Blu-ray?

It was almost three years ago that "Avatar" debuted in cinemas, and today eager fans can finally do what they wanted to do when it first came out on Blu-ray: watch it in 3D at home.

The reason you couldn't buy it on 3D Blu-ray until now? Panasonic bought the exclusive rights for the 3D version for 18 months, and this expired in February of this year. Up until today, if you wanted a copy of "Avatar" in 3D, you either bought a Panasonic plasma, or shelled out up to $100 for a copy from … Read more

Activision and No Doubt settle Band Hero lawsuit

The pop band No Doubt claimed that the video game Band Hero turned its front woman Gwen Stefani into a "virtual karaoke circus act." Now, that circus act may have sung its last song.

Activision, the maker of Band Hero, and No Doubt settled an ongoing lawsuit this week, according to the Associated Press. The settlement was agreed upon just weeks before a jury trial was set to begin.

The legal case began in 2009 when No Doubt charged that Activision didn't tell the pop musicians that gamers would be able to unlock the band's avatars … Read more