The Hunt for Red September Looks to Recreate the Submarine Experience

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a submarine commander.

Ok, that’s a lie. But I did watch a lot of “Das Boot” in high school, and I’ve always preferred the “Star Trek” style of space combat (submarine style) to “Star Wars” (airplane dogfighting). Now usually when I draw such a vague fascination with something tangible that I don’t feel like putting the effort forth to actually achieve, I turn to video games to feed the need. However, the world of submarine simulation video games are all mostly in the same family as the “Microsoft Flight Simulator” games. Which is to say, they’re so incredibly realistic, by the time you get a handle on them, you would have been better off actually becoming a real captain/commander.

Well now, in a weird meta twist, where video games have failed to properly create an entertaining simulation of real life, real life has stepped in.

The creative geniuses at 1.21 Jigawatts are looking to defend their Red Bull Creation contest crown with their new invention “The Hunt for Red September.” It’s a built to scale submarine model simulator that requires a player to operate the right series of valves, levers, and buttons (as instructed by an on board voice system) in order to prevent a series of disasters. Fail to complete the simulation in its 2 minute time limit, and the model sprays you with an absurd amount of water as punishment. Even cooler is the social interaction features, which allows people to tweet “depth charge” to the simulation causing the entire machine to rock back and forth via hydraulics, and allows for the ability for enough people to tweet for a torpedo to attack the sub, the incoming progress of which can be followed via an onboard LCD screen.

Now if this sounds awesome, it’s because it is. However, this is no friendly game. Players have mere seconds to properly multitask the required functions in the right order before becoming drenched with water bursts. It apparently takes some serious skill to complete the simulation, which is only appropriate as it matches the skill put into this project in the first place. The team built this model in just 72 hours out of mostly spare parts, with the intention of winning the 2012 Red Bull Creation contest, and therefore making it to the Maker Faire in New York this September.

While there are no current plans for this model beyond that, I’d personally like to see Fortune 500 companies start using one in lieu of job interviews.


They Still Haven’t Built a Better Mousetrap, But Logitech Has Built a Better Mouse

I remember my old computer science teacher telling me that the computer mouse is a handicap. Her theory was that since so many features can be accomplished quicker using keyboard hotkeys, relying on a mouse to navigate your digital world was only for technologically illiterate people who don’t have a working knowledge of keyboard shortcuts. Now while she was clearly pretty hardcore in her beliefs, I’ve got to admit that I do find myself thinking back to that theory when I use a computer, as I catch myself more and more often not relying on the mouse as a default.

There is, of course, one notable exception. As well designed as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have made their controllers over the years, there is still no gaming controller that can compete with the mouse and keyboard set up. It’s the perfect marriage. The keyboard’s comfortable and familiar array of buttons allows for a wide range of features literally at your fingertips, while the mouse provides a level of fluidity and pixel perfect accuracy that no console controller could ever hope to match.

Now accessory mainstay Logitech may have made the mouse even more useful to gaming. That’s because their new G600 gaming mouse takes some of the functionality away from the keyboard, and gives it back to the mouse, just where my old teacher always said it belonged. Equipped with 20 buttons (and a “G switch” that can double button functionality) this mouse was specifically designed to allow MMO gamers to easily access hot key features. Generally though, this little gadget is useful for all types of genres, especially RPGs and RTS games that also rely heavily on quick key access. Not to mention it boasts the extreme durability, rapid movement speed, and pinpoint accuracy you would expect from a gaming mouse, as well as vanity features like customizable color LED color schemes for the buttons and tracking.

Now, this mouse hardly breaks new ground in the field of gaming mice, as various models over the years have featured available buttons before. What I do love about this one, though, is the overall design Logitech has implemented. Not only does it look slick and smooth, and boasts stats that compete with some of best mice available, but unlike some other, similar gaming mice, this one actually looks like it was designed for human hands. Plus considering how I just cleaned house during the Steam Summer Sale, I’m starting to consider the G600s somewhat hefty $79.99 price tag an investment.


New York’s WiFi Initiative Expands

Payphones are an oddity on city streets. On one hand, they feel like indispensable parts of the décor. On the other, put one moments worth of thought into them, and you realize they are essentially useless. In an emergency, you may find yourself on a payphone , but the series of “only if” statements that would lead the average person to that point are nearly insurmountable considering the plethora of communication options available to the average pedestrian. Still, there has to be some use for the old payphone booths right?

Right. City officials in New York City are starting a program that will turn city payphones into free, public WiFi hotspots. To start, 10 booths across the city have already been outfitted with the WiFi upgrade, and based on the success of the initial locations, more could be springing up soon. This initiative comes hot off the heels of the recent efforts undertaken by NYC to find a carrier that will provide WiFi to select subway stations throughout the city, and seems to be part of the larger Bloomberg initiative to turn NYC into a friendlier, ultra-modern, personalized utopia.

Politics aside though, a good idea is a good idea, and this is a great one. The act of ducking into a Starbucks for WiFi service is a prolifically proficient means of getting internet service on the go, that’s been the default method for as long as there’s been WiFi and Starbucks. While the number of users turning to 3G and 4G service are growing every day, for the vast number of WiFi patrons still active, this initiative could prove infinitely useful if the city is truly dedicated to creating enough hot spots.

Although I must say it is odd that roaming street gangs loitering on the corners may soon be replaced by roaming hipsters loitering at the WiFi spots. Some call that progress, but frankly the hipsters scare me more.


Can Facebook’s Buffy “Stake” Its Claim In The Smartphone Market?

I swear, that’s my last bad “Buffy” pun.

Various news outlets from The New York Times to the BBC are reporting that Facebook is reconsidering an entry into the smartphone market.

For some time now, the social media giant has teased the idea of launching a phone of their own. However, early reports indicated that the project started and stopped several times until it was ultimately determined that the actual complete process of making a phone from concept to manufacturing was harder than anticipated, and the idea was scrapped.

Now though the project seems to be back in earnest. Codenamed “Buffy” (which is odd considering Buffy was a TV character that slayed things that were better off left dead), the smartphone’s hardware is reportedly going to be worked on by HTC Corp, while Facebook will internally handle the software development, which could include an independent operating system. To help get the phone out by its alleged 2013 target date, reports are that Facebook is looking for former Apple and other high end smartphone developers to add to the team, of which they may have already hired almost half a dozen.

Everything revealed so far has suggested that Facebook is taking this project very seriously. The word around the company is that Mark Zuckerberg is worried that if Facebook doesn’t make a play to start its own phone service, that it will become just another mobile app and get lost in the shuffle of the new world order of smartphone superiority. Not to mention that Facebook could lose out on advertising revenue if it starts being accessed primarily through a third party device.

Facebook still carries a lot of name value, and its internal app market could potentially be very popular if kept exclusive to its new phone, but I still think this sound like a case of overreaching. If the initial conclusion was that smartphone development was going to be too complex just a year ago, I don’t know what could have changed their minds in the meantime. Well, besides that slightly embarrassing public offering fiasco of course.  But if this is all an effort to extend Facebook’s reach enough for them to wipe some egg off of their face, things could turn ugly.