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Gamers break driving record

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Five bleary-eyed gamers have each completed a mammoth two-day stint at the wheel of a virtual Ford GT race car in Forza Motorsport 6 to set a new Guinness World Records title for the “longest video marathon on a racing game”.

Gamers Cara Scott, 25, from the U.K.; Hélène Cressot, from France; Johannes Knapp, 30, from Germany; Andrea Lorenzo Facchinetti, 42, from Italy; and Jesús Sicilia Sánchez, 23, from Spain, took on a simulated version of the La Sarthe circuit used for the Le Mans 24 Hours, where the real life Ford GT race car achieved a historic victory earlier this year.

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Driving for 48 hours, 29 minutes and 21 seconds, and completing a combined 41,004 virtual kilometres and 3015 laps, the gamers survived on power naps, sweets and soft drinks as they broke the previous record of 48 hours 1 minute.

The Guinness World Records title was later presented on the Microsoft stand at Gamescom, Europe’s biggest interactive games trade fair, in Cologne, Germany.

“They did an amazing job. Just like driving at the real Le Mans, this achievement required extreme levels of concentration, attention to detail, and most importantly endurance – because they had to keep going for twice as long as we did,” said Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Stefan Mücke, who competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship in the Ford GT, and started the virtual race.

Compared with Mücke’s 136 laps of Le Mans – completed during 9:05.40 hours of real world driving – the five gamers averaged 603 laps each over 48:29.21 hours of virtual driving during the challenge with Forza Motorsport 6 for Xbox One, at Ford’s European headquarters, also in Cologne.

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Their combined 41,004 kilometres is equivalent to driving once around the world. To stay awake for two nights straight, they drank 32 energy drinks, 146 bottles of water and 47 bottles of soft drinks, and consumed more than 3 kilograms of sweets.

“For me, it’s incredible to see anyone stay up all night, whether it’s for a bumper car marathon or four days of watching television,” said Lena Kuhlmann, official adjudicator, Guinness World Records. “Two days of race gaming is a superlative effort. The endurance of the gamers is remarkable. They were engaged, concentrating and having fun even after the record was broken. It’s also great to have the actual Ford GT in view, to keep the gamers from getting completely immersed in the virtual world.”

Ford GT and Forza Motorsport 6

Ford engineers worked closely with Microsoft’s Turn 10 Studios to ensure the virtual driving experience of the cars in Forza Motorsport 6 is as realistic as possible, from the look and feel of each vehicle to distinctive engine sounds and handling styles. With the Ford GT, certain performance aspects were first revealed through the game, such as the active rear wing, which automatically changes its angle in different conditions. The Ford GT is now one of the top five most raced cars in the game and has racked up almost 71 million kilometres – nearly as far as the distance from the Earth to Mercury, when at its closest.

Ford and Microsoft have combined forces again with Forza Racing Championship, the largest Forza racing competition in history. Open to elite gamers and aspiring amateurs, the championship, running until Sept. 4, will crown the best Forza player in the world, with the ultimate prize a brand new 2017 Ford Focus RS.

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“Dronekhana”

Ford this week also premiered the new “Dronekhana” video showing expert drone pilots tackling a unique and challenging course – involving a Focus RS, a smoking Ford Mustang, and a robot, also filmed nearby at Ford’s European HQ.

World Drone Prix champion Luke Bannister, 16, and fellow Tornado XBlades team member Brett Collis, 22, both from the U.K., raced the drones over an obstacle course that also included flying through a Ford B-MAX car, under a Ford Ranger pickup and bursting through smoke-filled balloons. A rig of 36 GoPro cameras captured the lightweight racing drones mid-action in a style made famous by the 1999 film The Matrix.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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