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Microsoft unveils the Xbox One

Microsoft has unveiled its latest gaming console, the Xbox One, featuring voice control, a new version of Xbox Live and built-in Skype.

Microsoft has unveiled the Xbox One, an all-in-one gaming and entertainment system created for today and the next generation. The company showcased how Xbox One puts the user at the centre of games, TV, movies, music, sports and Skype.

‚”Xbox One is designed to deliver a whole new generation of blockbuster games, television and entertainment in a powerful, all-in-one device,‚” said Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. ‚”Our unique, modern architecture brings simplicity to the living room and, for the first time ever, the ability to instantly switch across your games and entertainment.‚”

Introducing Xbox One

Say ‚”Xbox On‚” to launch a personalized Xbox One Home screen, discover what is popular on TV or see friends’ latest gaming achievements all using your voice. The more you interact with Xbox One, the more it gets to know you and learns what you like. Some of the Xbox One features include the following:

• TV on Xbox One. Navigate and watch live TV from a satellite set-top box through the Xbox One.

‚Ä¢ Home. Turn on the entertainment system with two powerful words, ‚”Xbox On,‚” and a custom-tailored Home dashboard welcomes you with your favourite games, TV and entertainment.

• Snap. Do two things at once. Use Snap to jump into a multiplayer battle while watching a movie, talk with friends on Skype while watching live TV, or track your fantasy team on TV as you watch the real game.

• Skype for Xbox One. Specially designed for Xbox One, talk with friends on your TV in HD.

• Trending. Stay on top of what is hot on TV by discovering the entertainment that is popular among your friends, and see what is trending within the Xbox community.

• OneGuide. Find entertainment easily, searching by network or name, all via voice commands and presented in a tailored program guide.

An eight-core, x86 processor and more than 5-billion transistors helps make lag and load times less

Titles launched with the Xbox One include the following:

‚Ä¢ ‚”Forza Motorsport 5‚” from Turn 10 Studios is the latest edition of the highest-rated racing franchise of the past 10 years.

‚Ä¢ ‚”Call of Duty: Ghosts‚” is the next generation of ‚”Call of Duty‚” and a leap forward for the franchise. It delivers a new world, new characters and an all-new story

‚Ä¢ ‚”FIFA 14,‚” ‚”Madden NFL 25,‚” ‚”NBA LIVE 14,‚” and ‚”EA SPORTS UFC‚” from EA Sports are driven by the new EA Sports Ignite engine, delivering innovations in human intelligence, true player motion and living worlds.

‚Ä¢ ‚”Quantum Break‚” from Remedy Entertainment is an entertainment experience from the creators of ‚”Max Payne‚” and ‚”Alan Wake‚” that blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one immersive experience. How you play the game impacts the show, and the show informs how you play the game.

Introducing a new generation of Xbox Live

Included with the Xbox One is a new version of Xbox Live that is more powerful and that takes more advantage of the cloud.

• Smart Match. A new Smart Match matchmaking system virtually eliminates waiting in lobbies by estimating wait times and finding people you want to play with while enjoying other activities.

• Living Games. Dynamic, living worlds evolve and improve the more you play, and advanced artificial intelligence can learn to play like you, so friends can play against your shadow.

‚Ä¢ Expanded achievements. A new and expanded achievements system captures video of your epic moments, continues to grow a game’s achievements over time and rewards you in new ways, and your Gamerscore carries over from Xbox 360.

• Xbox SmartGlass. Xbox SmartGlass is natively part of the Xbox One platform, built in from the beginning with the ability to quickly render content directly onto your device, and now more devices can connect at one time for multiplayer and shared entertainment.

Introducing the Xbox One look and feel

The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray disc player. Its chassis liquid black in colour and includes a beveled edge.

The redesigned 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive. Its vision, motion and voice technology let you reach into games and by expanding its field of view and fidelity. It works in nearly any lighting condition, recognises precise motion control from a slight wrist rotation, and distinguishes your voice even in a noisy room using advanced noise isolation.

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Uberising solar energy

A team of students from Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday walked off as winners with R20 000 in prize money for an innovative concept to provide equitable energy access to remote villages based on, among others, “Uber(ising) solar energy.”

The team was one of four university teams participating in the African Utility Week and Powergen Africa conference and exhibition’s first ever Initiate! Impact Challenge. The 19th edition of the event gathered thousands of power, water and gas industry experts in Cape Town this week and ended on Thursday.

Student teams from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand also took part in the three-day challenge sponsored by the Enel Foundation, the Innovation Hub, Lesedi Nuclear Services and the Russian Nuclear Agency Rosatom. The Initiate! Challenge aimed to create a platform for students and start-ups to drive innovation and share ideas for the energy sector.

Strathmore University’s winning team: (left to right) Fredrick Amariati, Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga and Alex Osunga.

The Strathmore University team included engineering students Ignatius Maranga, Raymond Kiyegga, Fredrick Amariati and Alex Osunga. One member of the team will also have the exclusive opportunity to join the 5th annual student fact-finding mission to Russia to visit several state-of-the-art nuclear facilities and dedicated Russian nuclear universities. Maranga said the team is happy and humbled especially because they competed against some of the top universities on the continent. He said the teams’ winning idea is rooted in real life challenges that Kenyans in rural areas face. “The solutions offered so far to expand energy access are not solving these problems as many are not financially viable.”

The team’s idea is to put a solar panelled container in rural villages that will also house a clinic and a knowledge hub like a school for vocational training to teach people about the use and benefits of solar energy. It will also include a shop where villagers can buy daily essentials like milk.

Maranga said: “The school will help with capacity building as villagers will see and learn benefits of electricity and as the business grows, they will want to have electricity in their homes and when that point comes, we will have solar powered tricycles. These tricycles will carry and deliver batteries like Uber does passengers to villagers in more remote areas. The system is modular so we will add another container to charge batteries. These batteries are ferried on trikes, so villagers in more remote areas can request a number of charged batteries on their phone.”

Maranga explained that it is common cause that Africa is big, and many people live in remote rural villages. “So, it is not always possible to extend the power grid to these areas as it is very expensive. So, what do we do instead? Most people own a cell phone, and everyone needs electricity, so you take it to them. They cannot exactly carry a battery for two kilometres so why then not Uber a battery?” Maranga said their company Kijiji, (Swahili for village) will now look at commercialising their idea, optimise it and do market tests. “If accepted we want to roll it out depending on funding.”

The team’s idea appealed to the judges because it was a simple idea that is easy to replicate beyond Kenya to the rest of the continent. Chief executive officer of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, Dmitry Shornikov, said: “We are very pleased with the solutions presented by the students. The maturity and depth of their research gives us great hope and proves that young Africans really are devoted to solving Africa’s energy challenges.”

Business Development executive at Lesedi Nuclear Services, Shane Pereira, in an earlier interview said the company partnered with Initiate! because it is dedicated to the youth that will be the leaders of tomorrow. “The growth and development as well as training, coaching and mentoring of the youth is critical to the success of our future economy.”

The ideas of the other three teams focused more on mitigating the risk of climate change and came up with ideas ranging from vertical farms to energy boxes.

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Ultra Fast Computing for Everyone?

A new era of enhanced cloud computing is rendering many devices obsolete, writes COLIN THORNTON, MD of Turrito

For those who haven’t noticed, internet connectivity is getting faster. Just how fast and robust the connection is always depends on where you live and work – but worldwide, internet speeds are accelerating. According to a 2018 report by Ookla, an internet analytics company, the world’s average mobile download speed of 22.82 Mbps increased 15.2% in 2018, while mobile upload speed increased 11.6% to reach 9.19 Mbps. Additionally, the world’s average download speed on fixed broadband was 46.12 Mbps, 26.4% faster than in 2017 – while upload speed increased 26.5% to 22.44 Mbps. 

For both businesses and consumers, faster internet speeds are propelling a global shift towards enhanced cloud computing and a diminishing reliance on ‘traditional’ hardware. Indeed, as connectivity gets faster, the less intelligent and complex hardware and devices need to be. We can already see this happening in the online gaming world, with Google’s new cloud gaming platform Stadia. The platform, dubbed  an early beta of the future of gaming, will stream games from the cloud to the Chrome browser, Chromecast and Pixel devices. Stadia’s processing power will sit entirely in the cloud (i.e. a data centre) as opposed to in the gaming hardware itself.

This is nothing short of revolutionary because in the past, gamers have needed very expensive machines with top-end graphics cards, lots of RAM and powerful CPU’s to have the kind of experience that Stadia will offer. The same applies to graphic designers, video editors, architects and more. So as sophisticated cloud computing becomes more entrenched, the need for complex hardware across use cases will decrease. On the other hand, ultra-fast internet connectivity will become essential.  

Rethinking the hardware equation

There can be no doubt that the growing reliance on cloud computing will change the face of the traditional IT hardware industry. Already, businesses have to begin to think differently about their hardware procurement and internet connectivity solutions. This cloud-driven transformation can enable huge increases in productivity, while also decreasing costs – provided that businesses plan ahead intelligently.

So what needs to change?

To begin with, many businesses still choose their connectivity solutions based on the advertised speed (e.g. 100Mbs). However, as reliance on the connectivity speed increases, this will no longer be good enough.

Businesses should be asking their internet providers (ISPs) how contended the line is, i.e. How many other users share it? Another key consideration is latency: How long does it take to send and receive data from a specific place?

When having these discussions with their ISPs, businesses must have a clear understanding of their most critical applications and where they sit in the overall IT equation. For example, if an architectural firm intends on using Amazon Web Services to host and process their CAD software, then they’ll need to choose connectivity which has the lowest latency to Amazon.

Investing in a cloud-based future

Although this fundamental shift in computing will not immediately be tangible in the South African context, it will probably start becoming more relevant in early 2020. As a result, businesses must take the cloud revolution into account when considering any expensive hardware purchases and long-term connectivity contracts.

Arguably, businesses should look more carefully at cheaper and less powerful machines/devices. And with the threat of rolling blackouts (load shedding) always ominously present, choosing microcomputing devices and less power hungry hardware is a smart move.

From a cost perspective, IT support costs will likely decrease because managing the hardware on-site will become simpler. That said, the cost of having ultra-fast internet (which is managed properly) should be factored in.

Powerful computing for everyone 

Looking ahead, the era of enhanced cloud computing and sophisticated streaming capabilities will transform the way we work and learn. In the past, hardware costs limited accessibility. Soon, that will no longer be the case. Within video editing and production companies, for example, there is often just one very powerful machine in the office for rendering video. Now, everyone can potentially have this computing power at his or her fingertips. The same can happen with architects who render high-res 3D images of their building designs. And the impact on education could be enormous, as suddenly a school can offer these types of practical applications to students (without having to purchase hundreds of expensive and power hungry desktop computers).

As with any major technology shift, however, organisations have to buy into the long-term vision in order to truly reap the benefits.

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