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Star Wars goes to Infinity

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Disney Interactive recently announced that the Star Wars universe will join Disney, Disney•Pixar and Marvel in Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits.

Disney Infinity 3.0 promises to deliver kids and families with a wider breadth of content and variety of gameplay than ever offered from Disney Infinity, including:

·         Three Star Wars Play Sets, one set in the timeline of Episodes I-III, the second set during the original trilogy, Episodes IV-VI, and the third available this winter based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

·         Additional Play Sets offering distinct gameplay and environments, including a Disney•Pixar Play Set based on the upcoming film Inside Out, and a Marvel Play Set featuring Hulkbuster Iron Man, Ultron, and other Marvel characters

·         A fully enhanced Toy Box with two new multiplayer Toy Box Expansion Games, Toy Box Speedway (kart racing) and Toy Box Takeover (action-adventure)

·         More figures of fan-favourite characters from across The Walt Disney Company, like Mickey and Minnie, Sam Flynn and Quorra from Tron: Legacy, Mulan and Olaf, among many others

Disney Infinity is the only game where fans can play with Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters together in one experience,” said James Pitaro, President, Disney Interactive.  “We worked closely with Lucasfilm to deliver an authentic Star Wars game experience, featuring some of the most iconic stories and characters from the past, present and future.”

Each of the Star Wars Play Sets offers distinct experiences, with varied gameplay, environments and characters.  The Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic Play Set takes place in the height of the Jedi’s powers, where players will use the Force and Lightsabers in epic battles and master their combat skills alongside Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Darth Maul.  The Star Wars: Rise Against the Empire Play Set will take players on galaxy-spanning missions with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Darth Vader, piloting X-wing fighters or the Millennium Falcon to fight stormtroopers, or exploring and partaking in land-based missions on planets like Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor.  Additionally, fans will have the unique opportunity to play with all of the Star Wars characters in all of the Star Wars Play Sets.

Star Wars is a cross-generational franchise, and Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits creates an incredible opportunity for families and fans to relive their favourite Star Wars moments,” said John Blackburn, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Disney Infinity.  “With the addition of Star Wars, Inside Out and new Disney and Marvel characters, Disney Infinity 3.0 will be the most ambitious and diverse offering yet.”

Disney Infinity 3.0  will also introduce an all-new, 3-D Toy Box Hub that will make it easier for players to choose from a wider selection of gameplay experiences – including platform, racing, and farming simulation games.  Two new multiplayer Toy Box Expansion Games will bring action-adventure gameplay in Toy Box Takeover and kart racing in Toy Box Speedway, where kids and families can play with popular Disney, Disney•Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters together in a structured setting.

Disney Infinity 3.0: Play Without Limits is being developed by Avalanche Software in partnership with Ninja Theory, Sumo Digital, Studio Gobo and United Front Games, and will be available for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 computer entertainment systems, Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system and Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft, the Wii U system from Nintendo, PC and iOS and Android devices.

The Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars Starter Pack will include the Disney Infinity Base and Disney Infinity 3.0 video game software, the Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic Play Set, Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker character figures, and a web code card that unlocks content for PC and mobile devices.  Other Disney Infinity 3.0 Play Sets, figures, and Toy Box Expansion Games will be sold separately.

All figures and Power Discs from the previous editions of Disney Infinity will be compatible with Disney Infinity 3.0 Edition in the enhanced Toy Box and, for the first time, Power Discs will be sold in labeled franchise-specific packs of four.  Additional Disney, Disney•Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars figures and Play Sets will be announced in the coming months.

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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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