E3 2016 once again delivered as the premier place to see what’s next in video games, as more than 250 exhibitors displayed more than 2,300 products for industry professionals, analysts, journalists and gamers.
Attendees had the chance to see the newest, most anticipated video games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dishonored 2 and Battlefield 1, as well as the latest in virtual reality and updates to the current console generation from Microsoft, PlayStation and Nintendo.
This year’s event also featured the first-ever fan show, E3 Live. This brand new event, which ran alongside E3 from June 14-16, offered fans the opportunity to explore new games and technology, compete in various game competitions and interact with developers. The event sold out within hours, as 20,000 fans from more than 100 countries enjoyed concerts from Steve Aoki, Wiz Khalifa, Big Boi and Empire of the Sun.
Alongside the new game and product announcements, this year’s event featured the annual E3 College Game Competition, a game design contest among colleges and universities with video game development programs. Industry experts awarded top prize to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and its game Brobot Beatdown, a virtual reality Mech combat game where players pilot giant robots from a virtual cockpit to battle with friends. This was the third time in four years SCAD has won this prestigious competition.
E3 2016 once again demonstrated the true value of video games in the entertainment industry, showcasing video games’ evolution through virtual and augmented reality, mobile technology and new, more advanced consoles.
The gaming division at Microsoft is announcing that it is ending production for the Xbox 360 home console, just months after the device reached the 10-year-old milestone, with the company saying that it still plans to support the platform for the foreseeable future.
Existing devices will continue to be sold for the time being, with availability varying based on the country.
Phil Spencer, the executive in charge of the device, explains on the official site that, “The Xbox 360 helped redefine an entire generation of gaming at Microsoft. I am incredibly proud of all of the work and dedication that went into development of the Xbox 360 hardware, services and games portfolio over the last decade. And I’m grateful to the fans for their continued passion and support.”
He mentions that the Xbox 360 allowed the company to create impressive new franchises like Gears of War, which are now getting ready to get the first installment for the Xbox One, and also offered a platform for innovation like the Kinect and the delivery of firmware that contains features that the user community has asked for.
Microsoft says that more than 78 billion hours were spent playing on the older console and that the total gamerscore reached by gamers was bigger than 486 billion with 27 acquired Achievements.
Xbox Live will continue to serve the Xbox 360
The end of manufacturing does not mean future support is disappearing, and Microsoft is committed to delivering online multiplayer for the consoles and will also continue to make sure that apps work on the device and that it delivers unique features like Games with Gold and Deals with Gold.
There are more than 4,000 video games for the Xbox 360 that users can get access to both at retail and via the online store.
At the moment, Microsoft is focusing on finding new ways to boost sales for the Xbox One, which is lagging behind the PlayStation 4 from Sony both in the United States and on a global scale.
Rumors are saying that a new Slim version of the home console is being prepared, set to arrive later in the year with a smaller form factor and lower energy consumption, with the company also planning to introduce a new firmware update when the Anniversary update for Windows 10 launches.
The GodMode of Windows 10 is nothing else than a special folder with a stack of shortcuts (around 260) to tools and utilities. Many of these functions are already known and are available in regular control panel. The GodMode is a hidden feature of Windows 10.
The real name of the GodMode folder is Windows Master Control Panel shortcut
To create the GodMode special folder, just create a new folder where you want and rename it in:
Actually the GodMode prefix is not mandatory, you can also rename it in:
Here a preview of the GodMode folder:
With Classic Shell, I already have a quick access to many shortcuts:
The video game industry continues to pave the way for advancements outside of entertainment. Now, a creative new partnership between technology and pharmaceutical giants is reimagining medical imaging, and with it, tackling an incurable and unpredictable central nervous system disease that affects 2.3 million people globally.
Microsoft recently teamed up with Novartis AG to develop AssessMS to treat those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). The new program, which uses the Microsoft Kinect’s motion-tracking and camera technology, allows researchers to analyze important data regarding the patient’s physical symptoms, such as gait and dexterity, by recording their movements.
Imprecise measurements and inconsistent assessments of patients’ movements currently complicate patients and doctors’ ability to evaluate the severity of MS symptoms and make informed choices about care and treatment options. These medical difficulties carry over into the pharmaceutical industry, making new drug trials challenging and costly.
Microsoft and Novartis believe their new program can change this calculus by offering more refined data. As patients perform simple body movements and gestures in front of the Kinect motion-sensing camera, doctors are able to evaluate precise information to evaluate the degree of impairment.
So far, prototypes have run hundreds of tests with patients in three of the top MS clinics in Europe. If the system shows promise, Novartis hopes to pursue the clinical validation process and seek regulatory approval.
This new system marks a break with previous games-based treatment options. Previously, doctors and patients primarily used games such as the Nintendo Wii Balance Board to help people with MS improve their balance. However, as several recent studies have found, games can help patients improve motor skills and visual acuity, sharpen short-term memory, reduce depressive symptoms, and relieve chronic pain, all difficulties common among people with MS.
“This is really super-interesting work,” Tim Coetzee, chief advocacy, services, and research officer at the National MS Society in the U.S. told Bloomberg. “The problem we are trying to solve in MS cries out for tools like this one where it is about being able to give the physician some consistent approach to measure the evolution of the disease.”
With these new advancements, the video game industry has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. As studies and tests continue to improve and evolve, researchers and game companies alike are working together to discover new treatments – even cures – to some of today’s biggest medical challenges.
DirectX 12 introduces the next version of Direct3D, the 3D graphics API at the heart of DirectX. This version of Direct3D is faster and more efficient than any previous version. Direct3D 12 enables richer scenes, more objects, more complex effects, and full utilization of modern GPU hardware.
What makes Direct3D 12 better?
Direct3D 12 provides a lower level of hardware abstraction than ever before, which allows developers to significantly improve the multi-thread scaling and CPU utilization of their titles. With Direct3D 12, titles are responsible for their memory management. In addition, by using Direct3D 12, games and titles benefit from reduced GPU overhead via features such as command queues and lists, descriptor tables, and concise pipeline state objects.
Direct3D 12, and Direct3D 11.3, introduce a set of new features for the rendering pipeline: conservative rasterization to enable reliable hit detection, volume-tiled resources to enable streamed three dimension resources to be treated as if they were all in video memory, rasterizer ordered views to enable reliable transparency rendering, setting the stencil reference within a shader to enable special shadowing and other effects, and also improved texture mapping and typed Unordered Access View (UAV) loads.
Who is Direct3D 12 for?
Direct3D 12 provides four main benefits to graphics developers (compared with Direct3D 11): vastly reduced CPU overhead, significantly improved power consumption, up to around twenty percent improvement in GPU efficiency, and cross-platform development for a Windows 10 device (PC, tablet, console or phone).
Direct3D 12 is certainly for advanced graphics programmers, it requires a fine level of tuning and significant graphics expertise. Direct3D 12 is designed to make full use of multi-threading, careful CPU/GPU synchronization, and the transition and re-use of resources from one purpose to another. All techniques that require a considerable amount of memory level programming skill.
Another advantage that Direct3D 12 has is its small API footprint. There are around 200 methods, and about one third of these do all the heavy lifting. This means that a graphics developer should be able to educate themselves on – and master – the full API set without the weight of having to memorize a great volume of API calls.
Direct3D 12 does not replace Direct3D 11. The new rendering features of Direct3D 12 are available in Direct3D 11.3. Direct3D 11.3 is a low level graphics engine API, and Direct3D 12 goes even deeper.
There are at least two ways a development team can approach a Direct3D 12 title.
For a project that takes full advantage of the benefits of Direct3D 12, a highly customized Direct3D 12 game engine should be developed from the ground up.
One approach is that if graphics developers understand the use and re-use of resources within their titles, and can take advantage of this by minimizing uploading and copying, then a highly efficient engine can be developed and customized for these titles. The performance improvements could be very considerable, freeing up CPU time to increase the number of draw calls, and so adding more luster to graphics rendering.
The programming investment is significant, and debugging and instrumentation of the project should be considered from the very start: threading, synchronization and other timing bugs can be challenging.
A shorter term approach would be to address known bottlenecks in a Direct3D 11 title; these can be addressed by using the 11on12 or interop techniques enabling the two APIs to work together. This approach minimizes the changes necessary to an existing Direct3D 11 graphics engine, however the performance gains will be limited to the relief of the bottleneck that the Direct3D 12 code addresses.
Direct3D 12 is all about dramatic graphics engine performance: ease of development, high level constructs, and compiler support have been scaled back to enable this. Driver support and ease of debugging remain on a par with Direct3D 11.
Direct3D 12 is new territory, for the inquisitive expert to explore.
- New APIs for ASP.NET apps. The new HttpResponse. AddOnSendingHeaders and HttpResponseBase. AddOnSendingHeaders methods let you inspect and modify response headers and status code as the response is being flushed to the client app. Consider using these methods instead of the PreSendRequestHeaders and PreSendRequestContent events; they are more efficient and reliable.
The HostingEnvironment. QueueBackgroundWorkItem method lets you schedule small background work items. ASP.NET tracks these items and prevents IIS from abruptly terminating the worker process until all background work items have completed. This method can’t be called outside an ASP.NET managed app domain.
The new HttpResponse. HeadersWritten and HttpResponseBase. HeadersWritten properties return Boolean values that indicate whether the response headers have been written. You can use these properties to make sure that calls to APIs such as HttpResponse. StatusCode (which throw exceptions if the headers have been written) will succeed.
- Resizing in Windows Forms controls. This feature has been expanded. You can now use the system DPI setting to resize components of the following additional controls (for example, the drop-down arrow in combo boxes):
This is an opt-in feature. To enable it, set the EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing element to true in the application configuration (app.config) file:
<appSettings> <add key="EnableWindowsFormsHighDpiAutoResizing" value="true" /> </appSettings>
- New workflow feature. A resource manager that’s using the EnlistPromotableSinglePhase method (and therefore implementing the IPromotableSinglePhaseNotification interface) can use the new Transaction. PromoteAndEnlistDurable method to request the following:
- Promote the transaction to a Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC) transaction.
- Replace IPromotableSinglePhaseNotification with an ISinglePhaseNotification, which is a durable enlistment that supports single phase commits.
This can be done within the same app domain, and doesn’t require any extra unmanaged code to interact with MSDTC to perform the promotion. The new method can be called only when there’s an outstanding call from System.Transactions to the IPromotableSinglePhaseNotification Promote method that’s implemented by the promotable enlistment.
- Profiling improvements. The following new unmanaged profiling APIs provide more robust profiling:
Previous ICorProfiler implementations supported lazy loading of dependent assemblies. The new profiling APIs require dependent assemblies that are injected by the profiler to be loadable immediately, instead of being loaded after the app is fully initialized. This change doesn’t affect users of the existing ICorProfiler APIs.
- Debugging improvements. The following new unmanaged debugging APIs provide better integration with a profiler. You can now access metadata inserted by the profiler as well as local variables and code produced by compiler ReJIT requests when dump debugging.
- Event tracing changes. The .NET Framework 4.5.2 enables out-of-process, Event Tracing for Windows (ETW)-based activity tracing for a larger surface area. This enables Advanced Power Management (APM) vendors to provide lightweight tools that accurately track the costs of individual requests and activities that cross threads. These events are raised only when ETW controllers enable them; therefore, the changes don’t affect previously written ETW code or code that runs with ETW disabled.
For Microsoft and Sony, the start of a new month means it’s time to share new software updates. Sony’s already had its turn, announcing that Remote Play will soon make its way to PC and Mac, and now Microsoft has confirmed it’s deploying a patch with a number of frequently requested features.
One of the most notable additions is improved access to Xbox 360 games. Microsoft has allowed Xbox One gamers to play older titles on their console for a few months now, but finding and launching them can be a pain. With the new update, older-generation games will be listed in a similar way to digital Xbox One titles, making them easier to buy and download to your console.
Party Chat has been given a nice little overhaul too. It can now be used during Twitch broadcasts and there’s now the ability to listen to conversations through your headset and speakers at the same time. The Party Chat limit has been expanded from 12 to 16 people, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on what type of games you play.
Microsoft has also listened to gamers who are frustrated with having to jump between apps to check on their achievements. They’ll now be loaded into the Xbox One guide and videos will now be playable from your Activity Feed. On top of that, Microsoft is scrapping the hard 30 second limit on Game DVR recording and adding a number of new recording lengths. Footage can now be saved in 15 second, 30 second, 45 second, 1 minute, 3 minute or 5 minute clips.
If you’re a member of Microsoft’s Xbox One Preview program, you can download the update today. Everyone else will have to wait for it roll out over the next few weeks.
Minecraft on HoloLens may be cool, but with Minecraft on Oculus Rift, you feel more like you stepped into the world.
Minecraft is a delightful and hugely successful game, but no one would say its success hinges upon realism. It’s blocky graphics, full of sharp right angles and huge “pixels” are far from realistic, but it gives the game a signature visual style and plenty of charm. However, it turns out that Minecraft‘s massive open-world nature makes it a great game for virtual reality. Microsoft already showed the game running in HoloLens, and now the company is announcing that it’ll work with Oculus Rift, as well. I got a chance to see how the game works with the Rift at Microsoft’s spring showcase last week — and despite the game’s blocky style, it could be one of the best overall VR experiences out there.
For starters, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a new version of Minecraft; it has just been updated to work with the Oculus Rift. You can play in survival mode as well as join one of the many multiplayer servers out there. Once you start playing, you’re presented with two different view modes. The first puts you in a virtual castle with the game running on what amounts to a TV screen in front of you. It’s pretty meta and rather funny to be playing a game inside of a virtual reality game, but it’s not a bad way to view things if you need a break from the full VR experience.
When you jump in to that full experience, the game shifts and you’re completely immersed by what your character sees. Because of the massive scope of Minecraft‘s vast 3D landscapes, it really does feel like you’ve been transported away from reality, despite the humongous pixels and lack of fine detail. It’s one of the best and more immersive VR experiences I’ve had thus far. In fact, that lack of fine detail actually helps Minecraft be so successful — the game doesn’t try to mimic reality. Instead, it felt more like I stepped into a cartoon.
The demo experience Microsoft was showing off goes through a few of the games signature moments — I did some mining, fought some creeps, lit up some caves with torches, pressed a bunch of buttons to interact with the environment and eventually rode a mine cart way up the side of a huge building. That was probably the best part of the demo, as there was a real sense of speed and height as I rocketed skyward. A later mine cart ride let me look around in 360 degrees at the vast landscape from way on high as it headed towards a new area, and there was all sorts of activity and eye candy to take in on the trip.
As with most things VR, it’s hard to do the experience justice in words, but I’ll just say that the experience really highlighted the vastness of the world and did a great job of immersing me in Minecraft. It’s a less radically different version of the game than the HoloLens experience, mostly because the Oculus version doesn’t have gesture and voice commands, but it still seems like a great place to go exploring. Unfortunately, there’s no word on exactly when Minecraft will be publicly available in VR, but hopefully it won’t come terribly long after the Rift’s release later this month — “killer app” is a played-out term, but Minecraft has the potential to be one for the nascent VR scene.
IO Interactive and AMD team up for a big performance boost on Radeon graphics cards.
DirectX 12 may soon appear in a big-budget game with next month’s launch of Hitman.
AMD says it’s collaborating with Hitman developer IO Interactive to enable the next-generation graphics tech. It sounds like this will be the first game to take advantage of DirectX 12’s Asynchonous Shaders feature, which spreads different tasks (such as lighting, physics, and memory) across the GPU’s individual computing units, letting them all work at the same time. This should allow for big gains in image quality without a performance hit.
Indeed, Hitman might be the first DirectX 12 game on the market from a major publisher. The stealth action thriller is set to launch on March 11, long before other confirmed DirectX titles such as Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Fable Legends. It’s possible that Gears of War: Ultimate Edition could sneak in sooner with an early 2016 launch, but so far Microsoft hasn’t given a specific release date.
Aside from those new releases, some existing games such as Just Cause 3 and The Elder Scrolls Online are also in the works. Some smaller games such as Descent: Underground added experimental DirectX 12 support last year.
To take advantage of DirectX 12, players will need to be running Windows 10—Microsoft has no plans to bring the tech to older versions—and AMD cards will need to run the company’s Graphics Core Next Architecture, covering nearly every card released since 2012.
Microsoft says that Windows 10 will be its final release of the iconic operating system that’s installed on over 90% of computers.
“Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10,” said Jerry Nixon, Microsoft’s developer evangelist, at the Ignite tech conference.
Windows as a service
In the past, Windows users could go to a store, purchase a copy of Windows and install it on their PCs. With the release of Windows 10 this summer, Microsoft is radically changing the way users upgrade Windows.
For the first time, Microsoft is making Windows 10 available as a free upgrade to all Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users. Starting in July, for the first year of Windows 10’s availability, owners of these prior releases can upgrade through Windows Update over-the-air at no cost.
Microsoft will continue this strategy of delivering Windows as a service, delivering frequent updates to Windows 10. There are also new methods to download Windows, including downloading the updates through multiple sources to get them quicker. Users can download Windows updates through Microsoft’s servers and from local and internet-connected PCs that have already obtained the updates.
Taking a mobile-first approach
Under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft is taking a cloud-first, mobile-first approach to its business, and this also applies to Windows. Windows will employ a strategy similar to how mobile operating systems split up the core components to deliver faster updates .
The Start menu and built-in apps are now unbundled from the main OS so users can get faster updates. Rather than waiting for a full Windows update, Microsoft is delivering smaller standalone app updates, a feature we’re seeing in the Windows Insider Preview – formerly known as the Windows 10 Technical Preview build – with the Mail and Calendar apps.
This unbundling effect has allowed smartphone manufacturers to update core apps – such as the camera, photo gallery, mail and others – without having to wait for mobile operators to push out a larger OS-wide update.
Like Windows, Microsoft employs a similar strategy with Office. With Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription service for Office already delivers the most up-to-date Office experience to users, regardless of the OS or device you’re running. Office 365 subscribers will have access to Office 2016, which brings cloud-based collaboration, when that version hits retail.
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