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Batman turns 1000

As Batman turns 80, a special 1000th edition of Detective Comics wows his followers.

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As fans across the globe celebrate Batman’s 80th birthday Saturday, March 30, the comic book series that first launched the crime fighting adventures of the world’s most popular super hero reached a milestone this week with the release of DC’s Detective Comics #1000. Pre-orders for the 96-page oversize collector’s edition have passed 600, 000. The issue features star writers and artists paying tribute to an iconic pop culture character, honoring Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 on March 30, 1939.

The 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the title from which the DC brand itself was born, celebrates Batman through a series of seven-to-nine-page standalone short stories. A highlight of the issue is an original story revealing a never-before-seen iteration of the Arkham Knight, written by New York Times best-selling author Peter J. Tomasi (Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, Batman: Arkham Knight) with artwork by Doug Mahnke (Batman: The Man Who Laughs, Blackest Night).

“Detective Comics #1000 is a remarkable milestone in Batman’s publishing history and he’s had a seismic cultural impact on fans for eight decades,” said DC publisher Dan DiDio. “As one of DC’s most iconic Super Heroes, Batman has inspired every writer and artist who contributed to this book, and we can’t wait for fans to connect with these new stories that celebrate the entire Bat-universe.”

This must-have collector’s item also features an all-star array of top writers and artists in Batman’s recent history, including Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Joëlle Jones, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Warren Ellis, Becky Cloonan and more. Detective Comics #1000 is available now at comics retailers and digitally for $9.99.

The release of Detective Comics #1000 follows the spectacular oversize hardcover Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman The Deluxe Edition, also available now. From guest editor Paul Levitz, the hardcover volume is packed with classic reprints of the Caped Crusader’s most memorable adventures. Featuring an all-new cover by Jim Lee, several unpublished treasures and a foreword from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the celebratory book includes essays looking at Batman from extraordinary perspectives, including Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Glen David Gold, Denny O’Neil, former San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman and pulp historian Anthony Tollin.

This weekend, fans across the globe can celebrate Batman’s 80th birthday on Saturday, March 30 with the following festivities:

For those attending WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, there is a can’t-miss opportunity to join a collection of stars who have contributed to Batman’s legacy at a special “Happy Birthday Batman!” panel event at 3:30 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center (Room: North 200B). Featuring DC Publisher, Chief Creative Officer and Batman: Hush artist Jim Lee, as well as David Mazouz (Gotham), Lee Meriwether (Batman), Kevin Conroy (Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: Arkham Asylum), Roger Craig Smith (Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman: Ninja), Diedrich Bader (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Grace Randolph (Beyond the Trailer), the ultimate celebration of Batman will honor the Super Hero’s legacy along with a slice of Bat-cake.

DC Universe will open its digital doors to Batman fans for a day of free live action and animated films, TV series and comics beginning at midnight EDT Saturday, March 30 until 11:59 p.m. EDT. From the Caped Crusader’s origin in Frank Miller’s landmark Batman: Year One to Tim Burton’s 1989 movie blockbuster to the epic Batman: The Animated Series, users will able to binge hundreds of the greatest superhero stories of all time, featuring the most iconic character in pop culture history. Plus, the first month of DC Universe will cost only $0.80 cents for new members who sign up between March 29, 2019, 12:01 EDT and April 4, 2019 11:59 p.m. EDT. The special offer is available in the U.S. at www.dcuniverse.com. After the first month at $0.80 the monthly subscription price will renew at the standard rate of $7.99 a month.

Bat-fans across the globe are welcome to join the stars of Gotham, Supergirl, Pennyworth and more to post special birthday shout-outs this Saturday to Batman with the hashtag #LongLiveTheBat.

A word of warning to would-be comics investors: this is not the one that will make you wealthy. The more copies that are printed, and the more people who keep it in pristine condition as a collector’s item, the less its value will increase.

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Why your first self-driving car ride will be in a robotaxi

Autonomous driving will take longer than we expect, and involve less ownership than the industry would like, writes Intel’s AMNON SHASHUA

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As we all watch automakers and autonomous tech companies team up in various alliances, it’s natural to wonder about their significance and what the future will bring. Are we realizing that autonomous driving technology and its acceptance by society could take longer than expected? Is the cost of investing in such technology proving more than any single organization can sustain? Are these alliances driven by a need for regulation that will be accepted by governments and the public or for developing standards on which manufacturers can agree?

The answers are likely a bit of each, which makes it a timely opportunity to review the big picture and share our view of where Intel and Mobileye stand in this landscape.

Three Aspects to Auto-Tech-AI

There are three aspects to automotive-technology-artificial intelligence (auto-tech-AI) that are unfolding:

  1. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)
  2. Robotaxi ride-hailing as the future of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS)
  3. Series-production passenger car autonomy

With ADAS technologies, the driver remains in control while the system intervenes when necessary to prevent accidents. This is especially important as distracted driving grows unabated. Known as Levels 0-2 as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ADAS promises to reduce the probability of an accident to infinitesimal levels. This critical phase of auto-tech-AI is well underway, with today’s penetration around 22%, a number expected to climb sharply to 75% by 2025.1

Meanwhile, the autonomous driving aspect of auto-tech-AI is coming in two phases: robotaxi MaaS and series-production passenger car autonomy. What has changed in the mindset of many companies, including much of the auto industry, is the realization that those two phases cannot proceed in parallel.

Series-production passenger car autonomy (SAE Levels 4-5) must wait until the robotaxi industry deploys and matures. This is due to three factors: cost, regulation and geographic scale. Getting all factors optimized simultaneously has proven too difficult to achieve in a single leap, and it is why many in the industry are contemplating the best path to achieve volume production. Many industry leaders are realizing it is possible to stagger the challenges if the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) aims first at the robotaxi opportunity.

Cost: The cost of a self-driving system (SDS) with its cameras, radars, lidars and high-performance computing is in the tens of thousands of dollars and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This cost level is acceptable for a driverless ride-hailing service, but is simply too expensive for series-production passenger cars. The cost of SDS should be no more than a few thousand dollars – an order of magnitude lower than today’s costs – before such capability can find its way to series-production passenger cars.

Regulation: Regulation is an area that receives too little attention. Companies deep in the making of SDSs know that it is the stickiest issue. Beside the fact that laws for granting a license to drive are geared toward human drivers, there is the serious issue of how to balance safety and usefulness in a manner that is acceptable to society.

It will be easier to develop laws and regulations governing a fleet of robotaxis than for privately-owned vehicles. A fleet operator will receive a limited license per use case and per geographic region and will be subject to extensive reporting and back-office remote operation. In contrast, licensing such cars to private citizens will require a complete overhaul of the complex laws and regulations that currently govern vehicles and drivers.

The auto industry is gradually realising that autonomy must wait until regulation and technology reach equilibrium, and the best place to get this done is through the robotaxi phase.

Scale: The third factor, geographic scale, is mostly a challenge of creating high-definition maps with great detail and accuracy, and of keeping those maps continuously updated. The geographic scale is crucial for series-production driverless cars because they must necessarily operate “everywhere” to fulfil the promise of the self-driving revolution. Robotaxis can be confined to geofenced areas, which makes it possible to postpone the issue of scale until the maturity of the robotaxi industry.

When the factors of cost, regulation and scale are taken together, it is understandable why series-production passenger cars will not become possible until after the robotaxi phase.

As is increasingly apparent, the auto industry is gravitating towards greater emphasis on their Level 2 offerings. Enhanced ADAS – with drivers still in charge of the vehicle at all times – helps achieve many of the expected safety benefits of AVs without bumping into the regulatory, cost and scale challenges.

At the same time, automakers are solving for the regulatory, cost and scale challenges by embracing the emerging robotaxi MaaS industry. Once MaaS via robotaxi achieves traction and maturity, automakers will be ready for the next (and most transformative) phase of passenger car autonomy.

The Strategy for Autonomy

With all of this in mind, Intel and Mobileye are focused on the most efficient path to reach passenger car autonomy. It requires long-term planning, and for those who can sustain the large investments ahead, the rewards will be great. Our path forward relies on four focus areas:

  • Continue at the forefront of ADAS development. Beyond the fact that ADAS is the core of life-saving technology, it allows us to validate the technological building blocks of autonomous vehicles via tens of new production programs a year with automakers that submit our technology to the most stringent safety testing. Our ADAS programs – more than 34 million vehicles on roads today – provide the financial “fuel” to sustain autonomous development activity for the long run.
  • Design an SDS with a backbone of a camera-centric configuration. Building a robust system that can drive solely based on cameras allows us to pinpoint the critical safety segments for which we truly need redundancy from radars and lidars. This effort to avoid unnecessary over-engineering or “sensor overload” is key to keeping the cost low.
  • Build on our Road Experience Management (REM)™ crowdsourced automatic high-definition map-making to address the scale issue. Through existing contracts with automakers, we at Mobileye expect to have more than 25 million cars sending road data by 2022.
  • Tackle the regulatory issue through our Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) formal model of safe driving, which balances the usefulness and agility of the robotic driver with a safety model that complies with societal norms of careful driving.

At Intel and Mobileye, we are all-in on the global robotaxi opportunity. We are developing technology for the entire robotaxi experience – from hailing the ride on your phone, through powering the vehicle and monitoring the fleet. Our hands-on approach with as much of the process as possible enables us to maximize learnings from the robotaxi phase and be ready with the right solutions for automakers when the time is right for series-production passenger cars.

On the way, we will help our partners deliver on the life-saving safety revolution of ADAS. We are convinced this will be a powerful and historic example of the greatest value being realized on the journey.

Professor Amnon Shashua is senior vice president at Intel Corporation and president and chief executive officer of Mobileye, an Intel company.

1Wolfe Research 2019.

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Sea of Solitude represents mental health issues through gaming

It’s a game that provides a tasteful visual representation of mental health issues. BRYAN TURNER dives into the Sea of Solitude.

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Disclaimer: This review is based on four hours of gameplay.

Sea of Solitude, the latest adventure game by Jo-Mei Games and EA Games, takes a sobering look at loneliness. It represents this loneliness visually, using light and dark environmental changes, as well as creatures players must encounter. The main character, Kay, must make it through the sea without finding herself trapped in a sea of loneliness. She meets fantastical creatures along her journey, and she must help them solve their challenges while keeping herself in a sane environment.

The game is systematic in the way it represents its important aspects. It starts with a striking visual art style and a soft storyline, which gives characters a chance to absorb the beauty of the game. As one gets a hang of the controls and used to the art style, the story kicks it up a few notches to reveal the harrowing backstories of the creatures that reside in the sea Kay must travel.

In particular, it features a creature that keeps flying away from Kay. This was frustrating because the previous chapter of the game presents a backstory for the creature that was not only devastating to the main character, but also to the player. Once Kay meets this creature, players must be ready to cry. It’s a brilliantly crafted story and hats off to Jo-Mei Games for being great storytellers.

Cornelia Geppert, CEO of Jo-Mei Games, told EA: “Sea of Solitude centres on the essence of loneliness and tugs on the heartstrings of its players by mirroring their own reality. It’s by far the most artistic and personal project I’ve ever created, written during a very emotional time in my life. Designing characters based on emotions was a deeply personal achievement for our team and we’re so excited for players to soon experience Kay’s powerful story of self-discovery and healing.”

Generally, I steer clear of games that are metaphors about mental health issues because they tend to be crass in how they address mental health. Sea of Solitude is quite different because of its level of relatability. Other games about mental health tend to be about a specific disorder that not many people experience, while loneliness is something that so many of us experience. Additionally, the representation of how loneliness affects Kay in the real world is sharp but tasteful. The combination of relatability and respectful representation is what makes the game’s story so brilliant.

Another great aspect of this game is the music scoring. It uses sound and the absence of sound very carefully to invoke the right feelings expected from players. The game wouldn’t be as good with the sound off and subtitles on, so future players are recommended to turn up the volume or put on headphones.

The game is long for an indie game, at around three or four hours of gameplay until the end is reached. Several sources say there is a hidden ending, so players can look out for that in a second playthrough.

The game’s story isn’t perfect, though. The eventual sameness of creature encounters is a little disappointing. This may be down to the expectation of being extremely devastated by all the stories of the creatures, especially when one is less than devastated by the subsequent stories. One of the most affecting creature stories was also presented at the beginning of the game, which set the bar very high for the rest of the creatures.

One creature, in particular, tries very hard to have the greatest emotional impact, but this comes across as blunt and dampens the meaning of what it was supposed to represent.

While I didn’t mind sharp representation, the perception of themes like bullying, estrangement, and suicidal thoughts may vary in appropriateness from player to player. Prospective players with existing painful mental health issues should consult gameplay videos, like the one below, before purchasing the game, to gauge appropriateness.

Overall, the game is incredible at connecting with what it is to be human and what it means to be lonely. Dealing with issues as physical creatures is a great touch, as the main character tends to resolve the problems of the creature by understanding what the problems mean.

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