Microsofts Project Zanzibar förenar den digitala och fysiska världen för att skapa något riktigt speciellt

Microsoft har länge sett på olika sätt där de kan förena den fysiska världen med den digitala, såsom deras Hololens och Windows Mixed Reality headset. Nu avslöjar de sitt Project Zanzibar, som har potentialen att vara det mest spännande försöket hittills.

Project Zanzibar är en bärbar matta som kommer med NFC-funktioner – samma teknologi som gör att du kan betala fort i butiker och restauranger genom att hålla din smarttelefon mot en kortmaskin.

Mattan har också igenkänningsteknologi som kan uppfatta multi-touch gester och rörelser, vilket gör det möjligt för den att identifiera fysiska saker som läggs på den.

I ett blogginlägg om projektet har teamet förklarat var deras inspiration kom ifrån. “Vi började med en mycket enkel tanke,” förklarade de. “Tänk om vi kunde sudda ut skillnaden mellan den fysiska och digitala världen? Tänk om du kunde leka med leksaker, kort och andra ting medan du såg dina egna handlingar komma till liv på skärmen?”

Image credit Microsoft

Image credit: Microsoft

Speltid

Blogginlägget målar även upp några användningsområden för Project Zanzibar – teamet tror att det kommer ändra hur vi interagerar med PC-datorer dramatiskt.

Att leka med leksaker är ett sådant exempel. Vanliga leksaker kan placeras på mattan och om de har globala unika ID-nummer kan information om varje objekt lagras i mattan.

Att kombinera fysiska leksaker med NFC-chip och AR (förstärkt verklighet) är ingenting nytt i sig (populära Skylanders, Lego Dimensions och Nintendo’s Amiibo-leksaker använder olika typer av den teknologin). Det som skiljer Project Zanzibar är att det kan identifiera vilken leksak som helst, inte bara de dyra sakerna som blivit specialgjorda för ändamålet.

I testerna lekte barnen med leksaker på mattan. Genom att använda en surfplatta med en filmredigerings-app kunde de skapa stopmotion-filmer. 

Blogginlägget förklarar: “Project Zanzibar bjuder in barn att använda sina leksaker i en interaktiv upplevelse och se dem komma till liv genom ljud, bild och specialeffekter. Teamet har observerat hur barnen tillbringar timmar med att laga stopmotion-filmer som de kan dela online.”

Mattan kan också upptäcka var saker ligger på mattan och genom att känna var särskilda leksaker är (och om de är nära andra leksaker) kan den skicka ut repliker från en dialog så en berättelse tar form medan barnen leker.

Även om en del är oroliga för att Project Zanzibar hindrar barn från att använda sin egen fantasi när de leker och istället använda en dator för att skapa ljud och specialeffekter påstår forskarna att de bara ändrar på hur barn interagerar med PC-datorer.

Många barn tillbringar fler timmar framför en 2D-skärm än vad de gör med sina riktiga, fysiska leksaker och teamet bakom Project Zanzibar vill ändra på detta.

Som Haiyan Zhang, en forskare på Project Zanzibar, sa: “Den fysiska världen är en så rik plats, full av dimensioner och materia. Vår vision är att hämta in lite av den rikedomen och ge den digital magi. Vårt hopp är att Project Zanzibar är ett steg i den riktningen.”

Image credit Microsoft amp nbsp

Image credit: Microsoft 

Hjälp att lära

Teamet är också ivriga att betona de pedagogiska möjligheterna med Project Zanzibar. De inspirerades av Montessori-metoden, en teori som utvecklades under tidigt 1900-tal av Maria Montessori, som såg på hur olika typer av fysisk aktivitet hjälpte barn att lära sig. “Vi tog traditionella Montessori-övningar för små barn och la till digitalt innehåll genom att använda Project Zanzibar,” förklarar teamet på bloggen.

Teamet letar också efter inspiration för att skapa pedagogiska appar, som kan innehålla rättstavning eller lektioner i koding och som använder fysiska kort för att låta barnen använda sina händer och kroppar för att interagera med apparna.

Hur funkar det?

Bloggen gör också ett djupdyk i hur Project Zanzibar-prototypen fungerar: hur NFC-teknologi kan upptäcka var saker ligger och hur mattan kan rullas ihop för att lätt tas med överallt. Den kan också upptäcka när objekt ligger på varandra och i vilken ordning, vilket är ganska smart.

Saker måste inte ligga direkt på mattan heller – den upptäcker NFC-saker som bara är 30 mm ovanför. Den känner också igen gester som görs över mattan, som att rita former i luften med sin hand. Mattan ansluter till en dator via USB eller Bluetooth.

Teamet har också gett ut en teknisk uppsats som ger mer information om projektet.

Det är ganska spännande grejer och vi ser fram emot att se vad som kommer av allt arbete med Project Zanzibar. Om det lever upp till sin stora potential kan det verkligen förändra sättet som vi – och våra barn – interagerar med datorer i framtiden.

Go to Source

be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4: Return to the Dark Side

The Dark Rock series from be quiet! represents the apex of the company’s air cooling line. The Dark Rocks are stunningly handsome CPU coolers swathed in no-nonsense, deep-black aesthetics. The Dark Rock Pro 4 is the latest flagship of this family, developed for power users and overclockers looking for every available watt of cooling power that they can squeeze from a performance-minded, heatpipe-based tower cooler.

Sporting both 135mm and 120mm fans, the Dark Rock Pro 4 manages to sandwich an extra cooling fan between its twin pair of aluminum-fin cooling towers. Out front, the 120 x 25mm SilentWings fan moves air through the first tower, where it meets the 135 x 22mm SilentWings fan. That second fan, in turn, motivates the air stream through the second tower, and out the rear of the cooler.

The cooling fins feature an open design to minimize airflow restriction and allow heat to escape out all sides of the cooler, while the dual fans work in unison using push/pull airflow.

Inside the very detail-oriented retail packaging lies a common assortment of mounting hardware, thermal compound, brackets, and even a two-way PWM splitter. Another welcome addition is the inclusion of a long-necked magnetic Phillips screwdriver, which will come in handy during installation. Also included are six different installation manuals (in English, Spanish, Polish, French, Russian, and German), each with highly detailed mounting steps for the vast majority of both Intel and AMD processors. (The big exception is AMD’s Threadripper.)

A massive air cooler can prove to be a challenge for users who tend to move their PC cases often, especially when transporting the chassis to LAN or other gaming events. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 falls into this category–you’ll want to watch its weight.

The top of the Dark Rock Pro 4 features a contoured, brushed-aluminum top plate with caps covering each end of the 6mm-diameter copper heatpipes that poke through.

Contained within the Dark Rock Pro 4 are seven copper heatpipes, which the cooler uses to offload thermal energy into the twin cooling towers. By providing separation of the heatpipes and heat dissipation over more surface area, the dual fans can work together to move air more effectively through the two fin stacks in the Pro 4. That’s more desirable than a single fan forcing air through one large cooling-fin tower. The heatpipes collect directly below the center 135mm fan, capped by an aluminum mounting base that is polished to a near-mirror finish.

The other side of that mounting base features a raised, almost heatsink-like, toothed formation. It acts as a guide for a mounting crossbar that secures the Dark Rock Pro 4 to the mounting plates during installation. The teeth provide fitment that also aligns with notched sections of the crossbar for stability.

The Dark Rock Pro 4 installation process is quite similar to that of many heatpipe tower coolers. You’ll use threaded standoffs, mounting bars, and a crossbar to complete the process. Because the fans are installed after the cooler is mounted, we still need a way to secure two obstructed screws through the mounting crossbar nestled between the twin banks of cooling fins. The solution lies with the long, narrow screwdriver that be quiet! provides in the box. The magnetic tip helps retain the screws during what is a near-surgical process of guiding the fasteners into place.

Fan installation is straightforward, using the supplied wire clips. They hook through the fan-mounting holes, while the rectangular wire arms slide over the cooling fins and snap into cutouts along the sides. Rubber fan-mounting strips run vertically on both towers where each fan rests; these strips eliminate vibration noise and allow for very snug fitment of the SilentWings PWM fans.

With the cooling fans installed, it is quite easy to see that three of our four memory DIMMs are obstructed, meaning cooler removal is our only hope if we were swapping out the system’s RAM. Also worth noting: If removal of the cooling fans is warranted, needle-nose pliers make easy work of unclipping the wire fan clips.

MORE: Best CPU Cooling

MORE: How To Choose A CPU Cooler

MORE: All Cooling Content

Go to Source

ZOTAC announces first workstation mini PC with Nvidia Quadro graphics

Longstanding mini PC manufacturer ZOTAC announced today that they would be making a foray into the workstation market with the ZBOX Q Series. The new lineup will demo at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, USA, the company said.

The two models announced – the QK5P1000 and QK7P5000 – are said to be compatible with most workstation-grade applications, with both products featuring the NVIDIA Quadro graphics with Pascal architecture as well as an Intel i5 or i7 processor.

Image 1 of 7

Image 2 of 7

Image 3 of 7

Image 4 of 7

Image 5 of 7

Image 6 of 7

Image 7 of 7

“As the Original Mini PC Creators, we are proud to reach more potential users who demand professional-grade performance for intensive applications in the smallest of systems. The all-new Q series is not only a breakthrough to our ZBOX product line, but also a testament to the capabilities of smaller footprints that still resonate big and powerful,” says Jacky Huang, Product Director of ZOTAC Technology.

Measuring just 2.8” high, all systems will support modern connectivity technologies, such as dual Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, M.2 and 2.5” bay for HDD/SSD storage device. You’ll get up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory which seems almost the bare minimum for a workstation machine, so it’ll be interesting to see just how these machines perform.

Go to Source

iPad 2018 vs iPad Pro

iPad 2018 vs iPad Pro

As rumoured, Apple has introduced a new iPad for 2018 and it supports the Apple Pencil. So do you really need to spend a lot more to get an iPad Pro now? We compare the iPad models to help you choose which is best.

Price and availability

The iPad 2018 now starts at just £319/$329 making it the cheapest full-size iPad to date – it’s normally £399. The new price gets you a Wi-Fi only model with 32GB of storage.

You can order it from Apple, of course, but it’s also available from John Lewis, Argos and Currys in the UK and Best Buy and Walmart in the US.

The new iPad price seems even better when we compare it to the iPad Pro which used to come in 9.7in but that model was discontinued last year.

Now you can get a 10.5in model starting at £619/$649 and the massive 12.9in version which will set you back at least £769/$799.

So that’s almost twice the price between the new iPad for 2018 and the cheapest iPad Pro – and that’s without including the price of Apple’s Smart Keyboard which is a further £159/$159.

Is there enough reasons to pay all that extra money for a Pro? Let’s take a look.

Design and build

There’s not much in the way of design and build to separate the iPad 2018 with the two iPad Pro models.

The obvious difference is the increasing size and weight as you opt for a bigger screen. Overall, they’re typical iPads and there’s no hidden surprises here.

Generally we’d recommend the 9.7- or 10.5in models in terms of size and weight unless you really need that extra real estate of the 12.9in iPad Pro.

One of the key things here is that the iPad Pro models are compatible with Apple’s Smart Keyboard so if you’re wanting to do a lot of typing then this will be an advantage. You can still use the iPad 2018 with a Bluetooth keyboard, though, so it’s not your only choice.

If your heart it set on Rose Gold then you’ll have to buy the 10.5in iPad Pro. It’s worth noting the Gold colour for the iPad 2018 is a new hue – sort of half way between the Gold and Rose Gold of the iPad Pros.

And don’t worry, all these iPads have headphone jacks.

Features and specs

As we’ve alluded to, one of the biggest choices here (beyond price) is which screen size suits your needs best. For most users the 9.7 or 10.5 models will be just fine but if you want a more laptop-like experience (possibly a laptop replacement even) then it could well be worth going for the 12.9in.

The new iPad 2018 has Apple Pencil support so there’s no longer the need to get a Pro model to use Apple’s own stylus. Either way it’s still an optional extra that costs £89/$99.

This is great news if you’re wanting to get an iPad with an Apple Pencil without breaking the bank. However, it’s worth noting that the much cheaper iPad 2018 doesn’t have a laminated screen so the experience isn’t as good.

It’s also possible you might want or need the anti-reflective coating, wide colour gamut and true tone display on offer with the iPad Pro models.

iPad Pro

The iPad 2018 might only have a an A10 Fusion processor while the iPad Pros have the A10X but most users won’t notice the difference. Professionals needing to do intensive graphics rendering might want to opt for the Pro for its extra performance.

Storage is another key area since Apple doesn’t allow you to expand with a microSD card. The iPad 2018 is limited to 128GB but the iPad Pro can offer 256- or even 512GB – if you can afford those models.

Some smaller differences to consider include the better sound on offer with the iPad Pros due to the quad speaker setup. They also have better front and rear cameras as well as the newer generation of Touch ID.

Here’s a table to give you an overview of the specs and differences:

 

iPad 9.7 (2018)

iPad Pro

Screen size, resolution

9.7in, 2048×1536, 264ppi

10.5in, 2224×1668 or 12.9in 2732×2048 – 264ppi

Laminated screen

No

Yes

Processor

A10 Fusion

A10X Fusion

Storage options

32GB, 128GB

64, 256, 512GB

Colours

Space Grey, Silver, Gold

Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold (10.5 only)

3.5mm headphone jack

Yes

Yes

Speakers

Stereo speakers

Quad speakers

Apple Pencil support

Yes

Yes

Smart Keyboard support

No

Yes

Front, rear camera resolution

1.2Mp, 8Mp      

7Mp, 12Mp      

Max video recording

1080p, 120fps slo-mo

4K, 120fps slo-mo

TouchID

Yes

Yes (2nd-gen)

Weight

469g (Wi-Fi)

469g (10.5in Wi-Fi), 677g (12.9in Wi-Fi) 

Thickness

7.5mm

6.1mm (10.5in), 6.9mm (12.9in)

Apple iPad 9.7in (2018): Specs

  • A10 Fusion chip with 64bit architecture
  • embedded M10 coprocessor
    2GB RAM
    32GB or 128GB storage (plus 200GB iCloud storage offer for schools)
    9.7in screen (2048 x 1536 at 264ppi)
    8Mp rear-facing camera, f/2.4, Live Photos, no flash, no OIS, Panorama mode up to 43Mp, 1080p HD video, slo-mo video at 720p and 120 fps
    1.2Mp front-facing camera, Live Photos, Retina Flash, 720p HD video
    Battery life up to 10 hours (video, music or web browsing via Wi-Fi) or 9 hours (web browsing over cellular)
    Stereo speakers
    802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
    Bluetooth 4.2
    Touch ID
    Digital compass
    Accelerometer
    Barometer
    240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm
  • 469g/478g

SHOULD I BUY APPLE IPAD 9.7IN (2018)?

This isn’t a case of one iPad being better – naturally the iPad Pro models have more advanced specifications and features. The question is whether you need to spend the extra to get a Pro over the new regular model.

If you’re just looking for a decent tablet to do normal tasks on, or even the odd spot of photo and video editing then the iPad 2018 will suffice.

We’d only recommending splashing out the significant amount extra on an iPad Pro if you will really make use of its features including the superior screen, A10X chip, quad speakers, better cameras and higher storage capacities.  

Go to Source

Should you buy a Core i9 laptop?

If you’re asking yourself: “Should I buy a Core i9 laptop?” don’t worry. We can help you cut through the hype, innuendo, and specs so you can make the right decision.

Frankly, the name itself is enough to confuse casual observers. In desktops, the Core i9 brand indicates the processor packs a ton more CPU cores (10 to 18) than the other “Core” brands (4 to 8). But today, Core i9 in laptops mostly just signifies higher clock speeds—not more CPU cores. The 6-core, 12-thread Core i9-8950HK laptop chip has a base clock of 2.9GHz with a boost speed of 4.8GHz, for example. Intel’s new 8th-gen Core i7-8850H laptop chip also packs 6 cores and 12 threads, but slower speeds at 2.6GHz base and 4.3GHz boost.

So the correct question, really, should be “Should I buy a laptop with a 6-core, 8th-gen Intel CPU?” Our official answer: it depends. To find out what it depends on, read on.

asus rog g703 Asus

The Asus ROG G703

The Core i9 laptops you can buy

Only a handful of Core i9 laptops were revealed when Intel announced the Core i9-8950HK. They’re all high-performing beasts, as you’d expect from notebooks carrying Intel’s first 6-core mobile gaming chips, and come with monstrous price tags to match.

  • Alienware 17: Core i9, GTX 1080, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe M.2 SSD with a 1TB 7200RPM HDD, 1440p 120Hz G-Sync display – $3,699 on Dell.com
  • Asus ROG G703: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 512GB PCIe SSD with a 2TB hybrid drive, 1080p 144Hz G-Sync display – $3,699 on Amazon.com
  • Gigabyte Aorus X9: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD with a 1TB HDD, 1080p 144Hz G-Sync display – $3,899 on Amazon.com
  • MSI G75 Titan: Core i9, GTX 1080, 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD with a 1TB HDD – $3,999 on Newegg.com with a 1080p 120Hz G-Sync display, or $4,499 on Newegg.com with a 4K 60Hz display

If you need multi-threaded performance: Yes

If you lean hard on your processor, the short answer is yes! Buy a 6-core laptop.

The longer answer is yes, but only if you truly use those CPU threads. If you edit video, render 3D scenes, or do any task that’s typically multi-threaded, you will see a huge performance boost by going with a 6-core chip over a 4-core chip.

Adding cores will also generally improve performance if you also tend to do a many things simultaneously. And while the vast majority of games won’t really use all six cores, the extra hardware will be a blessing if you stream to Twitch or Mixer while you game, or if you edit video of your adventures to post on YouTube. Upgrading to a 6-core Core i9 or Core i7 is a worthwhile investment for gamers who also create content.

intel core i9 logos Intel

If you need single-threaded performance: Maybe 

Like I said, the vast majority of games and applications aren’t heavily multi-threaded. They generally benefit more from fewer cores running at higher clock speeds than they would from a six-core chip.

Elephone S8 Review

As fans of the Elephone S7 we were excited to see how the S8 shapes up – and then disappointed when we realised how much of a departure it is from its predecessor. But our disappointment didn’t last long, because the Elephone S8 offers some decent hardware at a mid-range price.

Elephone S8 Price & Availability

The Elephone S8 is a Chinese phone, and as such must be imported to the UK from a site such as GearBest, which supplied our handset for review. At the time of writing it costs £192.01/$262.94/€216.89, though prices can fluctuate on a daily basis.

If you decide to take the plunge, there are some things you should note about buying Chinese phones. Naturally delivery times will be longer (though there is a free shipping option), but your rights are also different when buying outside Europe, which is handy to know should your product arrive faulty.

Import duty is payable, which is 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11 – remember to factor this into your budget.

Chinese phones are typically a lot cheaper than those we buy in UK High Street stores and online, but you must buy them SIM-free and then add a SIM-only contract. These work out significantly cheaper in the long run, but you must have the money to buy the phone up front.

Elephone S8 review

Elephone S8 Design & Build

Whereas the Elephone S7 was a compact smartphone with a 5.2- or 5.5in screen, tiny bezels and a 7.6mm-thick chassis, the Elephone P8 is a huge beast with a 6in screen, weighing in at 180g with an 8mm body. It’s not so much Elephone S7 Mk II as it is Mi Mix Mk II, but it hasn’t pulled off the design as successfully as did Xiaomi with its original Mi Mix.

It has minimal bezels at the top and left and right sides, but the chunky chin adds to the height. This is necessary given that the chin houses the selfie camera – a setup copied from the Mi Mix, and one we don’t especially like as it requires you to turn the phone upside down to take a selfie. This doesn’t work well with apps like Snapchat, and it means the Elephone S8 will not unlock using an iris scanner as the S7 did.

Whereas today’s full-screen phones adopt an 18:9 aspect ratio (or thereabouts), allowing for a taller screen rather than one that is larger in all dimensions, the Elephone S8 has a 16:9 aspect ratio which makes it feel much wider.

Elephone has swapped the plastic rear panel on the Elephone S7 from one that looked like glass to one that actually is glass, here protected by Gorilla Glass 4. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Gorilla Glass is not indestructable and, unfortunately, our review sample arrived with a crack in the bottom left corner.

Elephone S8 review

The rear panel is curved at all four edges, which goes some way to making this enormous smartphone feel a bit more manageable in the hand. We would have been more impressed if the transition between metal frame and glass rear wasn’t so obvious, however, and there is a clear ridge as you swipe your finger across the surface.

The rear itself is prone to fingerprints and not completely flush either, with the square 21Mp camera jutting out at the top. Fortunately this is large enough that it doesn’t cause the Elephone to be unstable or rock when used on a flat surface, but it’s not an especially attractive design.

We’ve been fairly critical of the design so far, but the Elephone S8 does have some finer points. The screen, for example, is a Quad-HD 16:9 display with excellent clarity, sufficient brightness and vibrant colours. Viewing angles are also strong. 

More importantly, its size makes it an ideal tool for enjoying media and playing casual games, or whatever else you want to do on this phone. 

Elephone S8 review

Below the screen is a physical home button with integrated fingerprint scanner, which functions as a three-in-one key. You tap once to go back, twice to go home, and long-press to open the multitasking menu. It’s fairly intuitive once you’ve got the hang of it, though you can also display a navigation bar onscreen if you find it easier.

Audio is reasonably loud from the mono speaker (don’t be fooled by the twin speaker grilles either side of the USB-C port), and an NX Audio Amp tat is said to ramp up the bass and tone down distortion at higher volumes. The distortion is still very much audible at max volume, however. 

Elephone S8 Hardware & Performance

A key change in the Elephone S8 is its inclusion of the Helio X25 processor, here clocked at 2.5GHz and said to be 22 percent faster than the Helio X20 used in the Elephone S7. This does not translate in our Geekbench benchmark results, however, where the S8 scored just 3898 points to the Elephone S7’s 4237.

Both phones use deca-core processors, and are equipped with 4GB of RAM and 4GB of storage, though the Elephone S8 loses its support for microSD.

The larger and higher-resolution Quad-HD screen may be what held back the Elephone S8 in our graphics benchmarks, in which it also turned in scores below that of the Elephone S7.

In T-Rex, for example, the S7 managed 23fps and the S8 just 21fps. Both are playable scores, nonetheless, and either phone is capable for casual gaming.

The Elephone S8 did outperform the S7 in JetStream, however, which is a JavaScript benchmark. In this test higher scores are better, and the S8 turned in 48 points against the S7’s 25.

Elephone S8 review

Given the larger chassis the Elephone S8 is also able to accommodate a larger battery, boosting the S7’s 3000mAh cell to a 4000mAh battery that supports PE+ fast charging. It also swaps the Micro-USB port for USB-C, though there’s still no support for wireless charging (not to be expected at this price). You’ll need to use the included adaptor to listen to audio, since there’s no headphone jack.

In terms of connectivity the S8 covers most bases, with dual-SIM functionality and support for all UK 4G LTE bands. There’s also 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS but, as before, still no NFC. This is necessary for mobile payments.

Elephone S8 Cameras & Photography

Elephone S8 review

The cameras are another key change in the Elephone S8. The S7 featured a basic 13Mp f/2.2 camera with single-LED flash, and a 5Mp selfie camera at the front. The S8 is now rocking a 21Mp primary camera from Sony, plus an 8Mp selfie camera, though the camera app is just as basic as before.

As you can see from our test shots below (Auto, HDR and low light), the camera performed reasonably well in low-light, with some noise detectable but it did a great job picking out text and the different shades of black.

In daylight it performs acceptably, but there is still a lot of blurring evident, particularly toward the edges of the shot. It also takes an age to focus on a shot.

Elephone S8 Auto

Elephone S8 HDR

Elephone S8 low light

Elephone S8 Software

The Elephone S8 is running a reasonably plain version of Android 7.1 Nougat, complete with Google Play services. There are some preinstalled apps such as Flashlight and Notebook, but a large portion of the 64GB storage remains free to the user.

It also supports some gestures, such as double-pressing the power button to open the camera, or sliding three fingers to take a screenshot.

Go to Source

Microsoft’s Project Zanzibar blends the digital and physical worlds to create something truly special

Microsoft has long been looking at ways to merge the physical world with the digital one, such as its Hololens and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, and now it’s revealed Project Zanzibar, potentially its most exciting attempt yet.

Project Zanzibar is a portable mat that comes with NFC (near field communication) functionality – the same technology that allows you to quickly pay in shops and restaurants by tapping your smartphone on a payment device.

The mat also has capacitive sensing to detect multi-touch gestures and movement, allowing it to identify physical objects placed on it.

In a blog post detailing the project, the research team behind it explained where their inspiration came from. “We began with a simple thought,” they explained. “What if we could blur the divide between the physical and digital worlds? What if you could play with toys and cards and blocks, while watching your actions come alive onscreen?”

Pirate toys on Project Zanzibar mat

Image credit: Microsoft

Play time

The blog also outlines some potential uses for Project Zanzibar, which the team envisions could drastically change the way we interact with PCs.

Playing with toys is one such example. Standard toys could be placed on the mat and given globally unique IDs, enabling data to be stored for each object.

While combining physical toys with NFC chips and augmented reality is nothing new (the popular Skylanders, Lego Dimensions and Nintendo’s Amiibo toys all use variations of the technology), what’s exciting about Project Zanzibar is that it can work with any off-the-shelf toy, not just specially made (and expensive) figurines.

In tests, kids played with the toys on the mat, using a tablet running a movie making app to create stop-motion videos.

As the blog explains: “Project Zanzibar invites children to bring their toys into an interactive experience and watch them come alive through sound, visuals and special effects. The team had observed kids spending hours making stop-action movies to share online.”

The mat can also detect the location of toys on the mat, and by sensing where certain toys are, and if they are near other toys, can broadcast lines of dialog, telling a story as the children play.

While some people may be concerned that Project Zanzibar is aiming to stop kids using their imaginations when playing, and instead use a computer to create sounds and special effects, the researchers claim to be taking a different angle by changing how children interact with PCs.

Many kids spend more time interacting with a 2D screen than playing with physical toys, and the Project Zanzibar team want to change this.

As Haiyan Zhang, a Project Zanzibar researcher, says: “The physical world is such a rich place, abundant with dimensionality and materiality. Our vision is to tap into that richness and imbue it with that digital magic and our hope is that Project Zanzibar is a step in that direction.”

Image credit Microsoft amp nbsp

Image credit: Microsoft 

Help with learning

The team is also keen to stress the teaching possibilities of Project Zanzibar, inspired by the Montessori Method, a theory developed in the early 20th century by Maria Montessori, which looked at how important physical activity is for helping children to learn. “We took traditional Montessori exercises for young children and extended them with digital content and feedback using Project Zanzibar,” the blog explains.

The team is also looking at creating a range of educational apps, which include spelling and coding lessons, that use physical cards and allow the children to use natural, tactile, actions to interact with the apps.

How does it work?

The blog also delves into how the Project Zanzibar prototype works, including how the NFC technology can detect the position of objects, and how the mat can be rolled up to be easily portable. It can also detect when objects are stacked on each other and in which order, which is all pretty clever.

Items don’t need to be placed directly on the mat, which can detect NFC objects from 30mm above. It can also recognize gestures made above the mat, such as drawing shapes in the air. The mat connects to a computer via USB or Bluetooth.

The team has released a technical paper providing even more information about the project.

It’s all pretty exciting stuff, and we’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of Project Zanzibar’s labors. If it lives up to its potential, it really could change the way we – and our children – interact with computers.

Go to Source