Showing posts with label Geeky Stuff. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Geeky Stuff. Show all posts

1 February 2021

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets

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We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
In the future, robots we’ve programmed may evolve and multiply on distant planets.(SquareMotion)

It’s been suggested that an advance party of robots will be needed if humans are ever to settle on other planets. Sent ahead to create conditions favourable for humankind, these robots will need to be tough, adaptable and recyclable if they’re to survive within the inhospitable cosmic climates that await them.

Collaborating with roboticists and computer scientists, my team and I have been working on just such a set of robots. Produced via 3D printer – and assembled autonomously – the robots we’re creating continually evolve in order to rapidly optimise for the conditions they find themselves in.

Our work represents the latest progress towards the kind of autonomous robot ecosystems that could help build humanity’s future homes, far away from Earth and far away from human oversight.

Robots rising

Robots have come a long way since our first clumsy forays into artificial movement many decades ago. Today, companies such as Boston Dynamics produce ultra-efficient robots which load trucks, build pallets, and move boxes around factories, undertaking tasks you might think only humans could perform.

Despite these advances, designing robots to work in unknown or inhospitable environments – like exoplanets or deep ocean trenches – still poses a considerable challenge for scientists and engineers. Out in the cosmos, what shape and size should the ideal robot be? Should it crawl or walk? What tools will it need to manipulate its environment – and how will it survive extremes of pressure, temperature and chemical corrosion?

An impossible brainteaser for humans, nature has already solved this problem. Darwinian evolution has resulted in millions of species that are perfectly adapted to their environment. Although biological evolution takes millions of years, artificial evolution – modelling evolutionary processes inside a computer – can take place in hours, or even minutes. Computer scientists have been harnessing its power for decades, resulting in gas nozzles to satellite antennas that are ideally suited to their function, for instance.

But current artificial evolution of moving, physical objects still requires a great deal of human oversight, requiring a tight feedback loop between robot and human. If artificial evolution is to design a useful robot for exoplanetary exploration, we’ll need to remove the human from the loop. In essence, evolved robot designs must manufacture, assemble and test themselves autonomously – untethered from human oversight.

Unnatural selection

Any evolved robots will need to be capable of sensing their environment and have diverse means of moving – for example using wheels, jointed legs or even mixtures of the two. And to address the inevitable reality gap that occurs when transferring a design from software to hardware, it is also desirable for at least some evolution to take place in hardware – within an ecosystem of robots that evolve in real time and real space.

The Autonomous Robot Evolution (ARE) project addresses exactly this, bringing together scientists and engineers from four universities in an ambitious four-year project to develop this radical new technology.

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
Robotic hardware will undergo natural selection in this cradle-to-grave facility. (Emma Hart, Author provided)

As depicted above, robots will be “born” through the use of 3D manufacturing. We use a new kind of hybrid hardware-software evolutionary architecture for design. That means that every physical robot has a digital clone. Physical robots are performance-tested in real-world environments, while their digital clones enter a software programme, where they undergo rapid simulated evolution. This hybrid system introduces a novel type of evolution: new generations can be produced from a union of the most successful traits from a virtual “mother” and a physical “father”.

As well as being rendered in our simulator, “child” robots produced via our hybrid evolution are also 3D-printed and introduced into a real-world, creche-like environment. The most successful individuals within this physical training centre make their “genetic code” available for reproduction and for the improvement of future generations, while less “fit” robots can simply be hoisted away and recycled into new ones as part of an ongoing evolutionary cycle.

Two years into the project, significant advances have been made. From a scientific perspective, we have designed new artificial evolutionary algorithms that have produced a diverse set of robots that drive or crawl, and can learn to navigate through complex mazes. These algorithms evolve both the body-plan and brain of the robot.

The brain contains a controller that determines how the robot moves, interpreting sensory information from the environment and translating this into motor controls. Once the robot is built, a learning algorithm quickly refines the child brain to account for any potential mismatch between its new body and its inherited brain.

From an engineering perspective, we have designed the “RoboFab” to fully automate manufacturing. This robotic arm attaches wires, sensors and other “organs” chosen by evolution to the robot’s 3D-printed chassis. We designed these components to facilitate swift assembly, giving the RoboFab access to a big toolbox of robot limbs and organs.

Waste disposal

The first major use case we plan to address is deploying this technology to design robots to undertake clean-up of legacy waste in a nuclear reactor – like that seen in the TV miniseries Chernobyl. Using humans for this task is both dangerous and expensive, and necessary robotic solutions remain to be developed.

Looking forward, the long-term vision is to develop the technology sufficiently to enable the evolution of entire autonomous robotic ecosystems that live and work for long periods in challenging and dynamic environments without the need for direct human oversight.

In this radical new paradigm, robots are conceived and born, rather than designed and manufactured. Such robots will fundamentally change the concept of machines, showcasing a new breed that can change their form and behaviour over time – just like us.

About Today's Contributor:

Emma Hart, Chair in Natural Computation, Edinburgh Napier University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license

We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets
We’re Teaching Robots To Evolve Autonomously – So They Can Adapt To Life Alone On Distant Planets (Photo via Pixabay)

29 January 2021

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare

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Nasa’s Space Launch System. (Nasa)
No-one has visited the Moon since 1972. But with the advent of commercial human spaceflight, the urge to return is resurgent and generating a new space race. Nasa has selected the private company SpaceX to be part of its commercial spaceflight operations, but the firm is also pursuing its own space exploration agenda.

To enable flights to the Moon and beyond, both Nasa and SpaceX are developing new heavy lift rockets: SpaceX’s Starship and Nasa’s Space Launch System.

But how do they differ and which one is more powerful?

Starship

Rockets go through multiple stages to get into orbit. By discarding spent fuel tanks while in flight, the rocket becomes lighter and therefore easier to accelerate. Once in operation, SpaceX’s launch system will be comprised of two stages: the launch vehicle known as Super Heavy and the Starship.

Super Heavy is powered by the Raptor rocket engine, burning a combination of liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The basic principle of a liquid fuel rocket engine is that two propellants, – a fuel such as kerosene and an oxidiser such as liquid oxygen – are brought together in a combustion chamber and ignited. The flame produces hot gas under high pressure which is expelled at high speed through the engine nozzle to produce thrust.

The rocket will provide 15 million pounds of thrust at launch, which is approximately twice as much as the rockets of the Apollo era. Atop the launcher sits the Starship, itself powered by another six Raptor engines and equipped with a large mission bay for accommodating satellites, compartments for up to 100 crew and even extra fuel tanks for refuelling in space, which is critical to long duration interplanetary human spaceflight.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
Super Heavy separating from Starship. (wikipedia, CC BY-SA)

The Starship is designed to operate both in the vacuum of space and within the atmospheres of Earth and Mars, using small moveable wings to glide to a desired landing zone.

Once over the landing area, the Starship flips into a vertical position and uses its on-board Raptor engines to make a powered descent and landing. It will have sufficient thrust to lift itself off the surface of Mars or the Moon, overcoming the weaker gravity of these worlds, and return to Earth – again making a powered soft landing. The Starship and Super Heavy are both fully reuseable and the entire system is designed to lift more than 100 tons of payload to the surface of the Moon or Mars.

The spacecraft is maturing rapidly. A recent test flight of the Starship prototype, the SN8, successfully demonstrated a number of the manoeuvres required to make this work. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction in one of the Raptor engines and the SN8 crashed on landing. Another test flight is expected in the coming days.

Nasa’s Space Launch System

The Space Launch System (SLS) from Nasa will be taking the crown from the discontinued Saturn V as the most powerful rocket the agency has ever used. The current incarnation (SLS block 1) stands at almost 100 metres tall.

The SLS core stage, containing more than 3.3 million litres of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen (equivalent to one-and-a-half Olympic size swimming pools), is powered by four RS-25 engines, three of which were used on the previous Space Shuttle. Their main difference from the Raptors is that they burn liquid hydrogen instead of methane.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
Stages of the SLS. (Nasa)

The core stage of the rocket is augmented by two solid rocket boosters, attached to its sides, providing a total combined thrust of 8.2 million pounds at launch - about 5% more than the Saturn V at launch. This will lift the spacecraft to low Earth orbit. The upper stage is intended to lift the attached payload – the astronaut capsule – out of Earth’s orbit and is a smaller liquid fuel stage powered by a single RL-10 engine (already in use by ATLAS and DELTA rockets) which is smaller and lighter than the RS-25.

The Space Launch System will send the Orion crew capsule, which can support up to six crew for 21 days, to the Moon as part of the Artemis-1 mission – a task that current Nasa rockets are currently not capable of performing.

It is intended to have large acrylic windows so astronauts can watch the journey. It will also have its own engine and fuel supply, as well as secondary propulsion systems for returning to the Earth. Future space stations, such as the Lunar Gateway, will serve as a logistical hub, which may include refuelling.

The core stage and booster rockets are unlikely to be reusable (instead of landing they will drop in the ocean), so there is a higher cost with the SLS system, both in materials and environmentally. It is designed to evolve to larger stages capable of carrying crew or cargo weighing up to 120 tonnes, which is potentially more than Starship.

SpaceX Vs Nasa: Who Will Get Us To The Moon First? Here's How Their Latest Rockets Compare
NASA’s SLS and SpaceX’s Starship, on the right, could both get us to the Moon and beyond. (Ian Whittaker/NASA/SpaceX, Author provided)

A lot of the technology being used in SLS is so-called “legacy equipment” in that it is adapted from previous missions, cutting down the research and development time. However, earlier this month, a test fire of the SLS core stage was stopped a minute into the eight-minute test due to a suspected component failure. No significant damage occurred, and the SLS program manager, John Honeycutt, stated: “I don’t think we’re looking at a significant design change.”

And the winner is…

So which spacecraft likely to reach carry a crew to the Moon first? Artemis 2 is planned as the first crewed mission using SLS to perform a flyby of the Moon and is expected to launch in August 2023. Whereas SpaceX has no specific date planned for crewed launch, they are running #dearMoon – a project involving lunar space tourism planned for 2023. Musk has also stated that a crewed Martian mission could take place as early as 2024, also using Starship.

Ultimately it is a competition between an agency that has had years of testing and experience but is limited by a fluctuating taxpayer budget and administration policy changes, and a company relatively new to the game but which has already launched 109 Falcon 9 rockets with a 98% success rate and has a dedicated long-term cash flow.

Whoever reaches the Moon first will inaugurate a new era of exploration of a world which still has much scientific value.

About Today's Contributors:

Gareth Dorrian, Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham and Ian Whittaker, Senior Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

16 November 2020

Assassin's Creed TV Series: Why It's So Hard To Adapt Video Games For The Screen

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Assassin's Creed TV Series: Why It's So Hard To Adapt Video Games For The Screen
Michael Fassbender in the Assassin’s Creed film. (20th Century Fox/Youtube)
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is leaping forward (off the top of a building, presumably) with the release of the 12th game in the series – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – and the recent announcement of an upcoming Netflix show.
While the games are hugely popular, we will have to hope this new show is an improvement on the 2016 film. It had great actors playing bland characters, and perfectly adequate action scenes but no discernible narrative content. Indeed, Assassin’s Creed provides a classic lesson on the difficulties of turning even an expansive, multi-dimensional gaming world into a story that’s suitable for other formats.

The Assassin’s Creed games use the framing device of a present-day conflict and the dramatically recreated memories of the characters’ ancestors in historical periods. These memories form the main action of the game and its main appeal. If anything, the present-day plot elements seem rather odd and superfluous by comparison.

For instance, in the first game (2007), the player controls a 12th-century Levantine assassin named Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad during the Third Crusade. His 21st-century descendant, Desmond Miles, is forced to experience Altaïr’s life so that the present-day Templars can find prehuman artefacts known as Pieces of Eden. If that doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, well, it doesn’t.

This is no Shakespearean play-within-a-play device with two separate narratives that merely reflect and comment on each other. Rather, the stories directly affect one another – you must go into the past to uncover the secret locations of present-day artefacts.

Incoherent narrative

Assassin’s Creed never really attempts the moral depth and world-shaking decisions of, say, the critically-acclaimed Deus Ex videogame franchise. Deus Ex’s background of warring conspiracies is nuanced enough that the player feels that real choices are being made.

The 2016 Assassin’s Creed movie was bad partly because the entire franchise – despite its many genuinely brilliant qualities of gameplay, atmosphere, and graphics – is narratively incoherent. This might be forgivable in a game built around atmosphere, cool weaponry and stylish moves, but it’s not enough for a viable film.

There are great examples of transmedia storytelling across multiple formats, such as the Marvel cinematic universe, Tolkein’s Middle-Earth or, indeed, Deus Ex. In these cases, each new book, film or game builds on the narrative of the previous ones while maintaining a sense of wonder and the unknown. But the Assassin’s Creed franchise doesn’t bother making the effort, as though its creators Ubisoft believe the occasional media studies experts who suggest that videogames should stay in their lane and not even try to tell stories.

It seems snobbish to assume that video games are just no good at narrative, but it’s almost as reductive to believe they should emulate filmic storytelling instead of embracing videogames’ unique strengths. Interactivity, agency, emotional engagement and immersion combine to provide players with experiences that would be impossible to achieve in purely linear stories.
The structure of games is inherently different from that of films, and this is most apparent when it comes to endings. Writing a narratively satisfying ending for a novel or film is notoriously tough – and even tougher if you also have to give your audience the choice of how to finish the story.

Every time you let the player make a significant yes or no decision in gameplay, you double the number of possible endings. No storyteller wants to have to come up with hundreds of satisfactory endings.

Game designers have a variety of tricks available to reduce that number, giving the illusion of choice while gradually steering the player back onto the main plot. Still, most players will be happier if the series of interesting decisions include more than just selecting tactical options to overcome challenges. They need ethically weighty choices that empower them to playfully explore their value systems.

From winging it to fixing it?

The Assassin’s Creed franchise seems to have been winging it with its worldbuilding since the start, each story building haphazardly on the previous ones. I see three ways forward.

They could continue to ignore concerns about coherence, concentrate on cool stunts and environments, and hope that fans will accept new instalments as merely each new creative team’s take. But the narrative threads sprawl so much that it’s going to be a tough sell.

Assassin's Creed TV Series: Why It's So Hard To Adapt Video Games For The Screen
A still from the very first Assassin’s Creed (2007). (Ubisoft/IGDB)
If the new series is going to be any good, it would be better to bring in a good universe runner. Someone who can work out how most of the universe hangs together and cut out the bits that don’t.

Alternatively, they could start again, with a worldbuilding process not just a story idea. Videogames can tell amazing stories, despite what their detractors may think, but they do need a consistent background in which to set those stories. Creating a believable world first, would only make the next franchise stronger.

About Today's Contributor:

Ian Sturrock, Senior Lecturer in Game Design and Games Studies, Teesside University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

13 November 2020

A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]

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A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]
A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better (screengrab)
Dr. Biplav Srivastava, professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, and his team have developed a data-driven tool that helps demonstrate the effect of wearing masks on COVID-19 cases and deaths. His model utilizes a variety of data sources to create alternate scenarios that can tell us “What could have happened?” if a county in the U.S. had a higher or lower rate of mask adherence. In this interview, he explains how the model works, its limitations and what conclusions we can draw from it.

What does this computer model do?

This is a nationwide tool which can show the effect that wearing masks can have. If it’s a county where people wear masks regularly, it will show you how many COVID-19 cases and deaths they avoided. If you pick a county where people don’t wear masks, it will show you how many cases and deaths could have been prevented there.

How does it do it?

We need a lot of data to do this. The New York Times surveyed almost every county in the U.S. over the summer and assigned a mask-wearing score of 0-5 to each of them, so this is at the heart of the model. We also use New York Times and Johns Hopkins data for real-time case numbers; census data for demographics such as population size, median age and more; and geographic data to measure the distance between counties.

It is based on a mathematical technique called robust synthetic control, which is often used in drug research, where there is a control group and there is a treatment group.

For example, let’s look at Wyandotte County, Kansas. It has a relatively high mask-wearing score of about 3.4. Because the model is designed to tell us the “what if?” scenario, it will look at what would have happened if the mask-wearing score was reduced to 3.0, which is our cutoff for “low mask-wearing,” but the user can experiment with other values too just to see what happens. We arrived at 3.0 based on analysis of nationwide mask-wearing habits. The actual values ranged between 1.4 and 3.85, with a national average of 2.98.

We can set a date at which the mask-wearing score changes to 3.0. If we set it to run from June 1 to Oct 1, it tells us that Wyandotte County would have had 101.5% more cases and 150 more deaths in that period. It tells the user how many deaths have occurred or been prevented based on a mortality rate parameter that the user can set. In this example, it was set at 2%.

How does the model create the “what if?” scenario if it didn’t actually happen? It does this by looking at other counties that are close by and have similar demographics and case count but a lower mask-wearing threshold. It tries to come up with a weighted average to form a synthetic control group which is similar to our county of interest (treatment group). The model then looks at how much the two groups have diverged in terms of the case counts. The difference in case counts between the two groups is converted to a difference in deaths using the mortality rate parameter.

A New Data-Driven Model Shows That Wearing Masks Saves Lives – And The Earlier You Start, The Better [Video Included]
Computer scientist Biplav Srivastava provides a demo of the simulation to show that earlier policies to recommend mask-wearing make a bigger difference on the spread of the coronavirus.(screengrab)

What does this tell us about the impact of mask-wearing policies?

Keeping up mask-wearing or implementing a mask policy at any time can be helpful. But its impact is highest when you do it early. When you run this model multiple times using different dates, you see that the impact reduces as you delay implementing a mask-wearing policy. So if a county implemented a mask policy on June 1, it would have prevented many cases. If it acted on July 1, it would have a smaller impact. If it acted in August, it would still have prevented cases, but a very small number.

What are the limitations of this model?

This tool works better for some counties than others. In general, it works best with counties that are closer to the average, because it will have closer matches to compare against. There is also a limitation in the sense that The New York Times mask adherence survey was done in the summer, and things keep changing. So if other researchers use this tool, they will have to account for the changes.

But what you see is that when you implement a mask policy or the population regularly wears masks, it makes a positive impact. And the earlier you do it, the more effective it is.

I would like to acknowledge the work of my team, Sparsh Johri, Kartikaya Srivastava, Chinmayi Appajigowda and Lokesh Johri, in developing this program.

The Video:

About Today's Contributor:

Biplav Srivastava, Professor of Computer Science, University of South Carolina

The computer model simulates how many COVID-19 cases could have been prevented in a particular county in the U.S. (Leontura/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

5 September 2020

#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia

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#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia
Embrace Your Powers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia (PRNewsfoto/SQUARE ENIX)
SQUARE ENIX announced that Marvel's Avengers is now available worldwide for the PlayStation4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia.
Marvel's Avengers offers players a truly rich experience and combines the single player focused Reassemble story campaign with the ongoing Avengers Initiative's War Zone missions, which take the Avengers around the world and beyond. 

Each mission in the Reassemble campaign is designed to showcase one or more hero's unique abilities, while the Avengers Initiative missions can be played solo with your own custom AI team or with a group of up to four players (Internet connection required. Your platform's online multiplayer requirements will apply...) as any Hero in the player's roster.

"At its heart, Marvel's Avengers is a game about hope in a modern Super Hero setting," said Shaun Escayg, creative director for Marvel's Avengers at developer Crystal Dynamics. "Our original story campaign features Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, as the point-of-view focus who is unflappably optimistic, and she uses her passion, natural curiosity, gifted intellect, and emerging powers to expose a conspiracy, leading her on an adventure to re-assemble and re-build the Avengers to their former glory."


#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia
Embrace Your Powers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia (PRNewsfoto/SQUARE ENIX)
To ensure a continuing heroic experience for all players, the narrative of Marvel's Avengers will expand over time, with the addition of new stories featuring new heroes, villains, mission types, regions, items, and more delivered to players at no additional cost once they own the core game. 


  • These stories move the entire Marvel's Avengers narrative world forward on a multi-year arc, and all new missions are accessible to the entire roster of playable heroes.
Fans won't have to wait long for this new content, either. The game's first post-launch content season, focused on the recently announced Kate Bishop and her iconic mentor Hawkeye, Clint Barton, begins just weeks after launch with mysterious new Tachyon missions. 

Kate's Operation, "Taking AIM," kicks off in late October featuring a new villain and new mystery. Kate, an Olympic-caliber gymnast and master archer, comes with her own distinct set of Heroic Skills, outfits, and takedowns to unlock and master just like the core launch Heroes.

#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia
Embrace Your Powers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia (PRNewsfoto/SQUARE ENIX)
"Taking AIM" begins shortly after the conclusion of the game's Reassemble campaign and is just the first half of the two Hawkeyes' Story Arc. Clint Barton's Hawkeye takes the stage in November to complete the double-feature arc and set the stage for what's next. 


  • All of these new missions are playable with the entire roster of heroes, and all of this content, including heroes, villains, game modes, missions, gear, and more will be made available at no cost to all owners of the Marvel's Avengers core game.
Players in Marvel's Avengers are also able to customize Earth's Mightiest Heroes in a number of ways. While each Super Hero plays true to their unique power sets, each has the flexibility to play differently based on the gear players equip and the skills they enable, so no two player's heroes play in exactly the same way. 

Each hero has dynamic combo systems, heroic moves, intrinsic abilities, and signature move sets to unlock and customize – many inspired by classic moves from over 80 years of Marvel history across all media, while others are crafted as originals just for the game.

  • Players can also dress the iconic Super Heroes with classic, fan-favorite, and all-new original outfits, including Iron Man's suit from the 2014 Original Sin storyline, or Thor's Donald Blake identity, which is a nod to an alias of Thor's who first appeared in 1962's Journey into Mystery issue #83.
#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia
Embrace Your Powers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia (PRNewsfoto/SQUARE ENIX)
  • Marvel's Avengers will be available on PlayStation5 and Xbox Series X when the consoles launch in 2020. 
  • Players who own the current-gen version of the game will be able to upgrade to the next-gen version at no additional cost, regardless if players are moving from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5 or Xbox One to Xbox Series X. 
  • Those moving their saves to next-gen will transfer their player profiles and progression so they can pick up right where they left off. In addition, cross-gen play will be supported so PS5 players will be able to play with their friends on PS4 and Xbox Series X players can connect with their friends on Xbox One.
#EmbraceYourPowers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia
Embrace Your Powers! Marvel's Avengers Available Now For Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, And Stadia (PRNewsfoto/SQUARE ENIX)
  • Marvel's Avengers is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB.

Related Links:

SOURCE: SQUARE ENIX

18 July 2020

How To Take Part In Comic-Con@Home July 22-26, 2020

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Comic-Con@Home Badge Sponsored by Amazon and Prime Video
San Diego Comic Convention (Comic-Con), the world's premier event of its kind, today announced details of its first-ever virtual event, Comic-Con@Home.

For the first time in its 50-year history, Comic-Con organizers were forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel the annual celebration of comics and pop culture. Soon after the cancelation, they announced an online version to launch July 22, the official start date of the originally scheduled convention. 

"We're very excited about bringing Comic-Con online," said David Glanzer, spokesperson for the nonprofit organization. "And it couldn't have been achieved without the help and support of so many of our usual friends, and some new ones too."
The virtual event will exist on the www.comic-con.org website which, at 9:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, will transform to Comic-Con@Home. The redesigned Home Page will be the means by which participants can access programming, the Online Exhibit Hall, and various events and interactive elements, as each will be supported by a variety of different platforms. While programming for each day will be available on the website, Comic-Con is working again with Sched.com for those who would like to create their own daily schedule.

Joining in the fun is the Comic-Con Museum which has long planned an interactive component to their efforts. They began offering activities through Comic-Con Museum@Home earlier this summer which will continue through the Comic-Con@Home weekend and beyond.


  • YouTube will host over 350 panels and programs as well as the 2020 Eisner Awards. 
  • The Online Exhibit Hall, with approximately 700 exhibitors, will exist on the GoExpo by Community Brands page. 
  • And for fans of Gaming, those activities will live on the Discord platform.
How To Take Part In Comic-Con@Home July 22-26, 2020
ComicCon@Home 2020 Currently Attending Window Sign (image via www.comic-con.org)
Fans will be excited to learn that DC Comics, longtime supporters of Comic-Con, will again provide exceptional artwork for the official event T-shirt. The event T-shirt will be accompanied by an assortment of official Comic-Con-related and Comic-Con Museum-related merchandise available on the Merch store page on the Comic-Con website.

Amazon and Prime Video are official sponsors of Comic-Con@Home and will be treating fans to additional activities from a variety of Amazon-owned platforms through their Amazon Virtual-Con portal. Prime Video is also the official sponsor of the Comic-Con 2020 print-at-home badge, which will allow participants to print and wear the free badge and take part in many fun, yet to be announced, interactive challenges.

Collaborator and sponsor IGN will stream roughly 34 Comic-Con@Home panels as well as produce extensive hosted shoulder content, hosted interviews and more, all in support of the online initiative.

Tumblr will serve as the platform for both the Comic-Con Art Show and the always popular Masquerade. The 46th annual Masquerade will open for viewing Friday, July 24, and winners announced on Saturday, July 25.

Films and anime have long been popular elements at Comic-Con. This tradition continues as both will employ the Scener Watch Party Platform, Funimation will exclusively host all of the anime watch parties including Black Clover and Fruits Basket. Scener is a Chrome browser plug-in that will allow fans the ability to simultaneously watch and discuss movies and anime.

Anyone who has visited Comic-Con is familiar with and may have participated in the outside activations (immersive experiences). Even they will be represented as FX will unveil the digital experience: FX UNLOCKED- where fans will engage with virtual activations for American Horror Story, What We Do in The Shadows, Cake and DAVE.

FutureTechLive! returns for a fifth year to present the virtual "World Builders" activation, featuring content by a global community of creators. In this unique experience, participants can explore new worlds in mixed reality, and unleash their imagination to create some of their own!

If that weren't enough, there will be a number of activities including portfolio review, gaming, a SideWalk Art Challenge, a Cosplay Challenge, the SuperVolunteer Challenge, and even some shared recipes should you need a break and a little sustenance during the Comic-Con@Home weekend.

Comic-Con will also be offering an online version of its Souvenir Book, which will be available as a free, downloadable PDF, starting on Wednesday, July 22. The 260-page book contains new art and articles celebrating various anniversaries, including the 100th birthdays of Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen, plus celebrations of EC Comics, Moomin, Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics, and more. This year's cover is by William Stout.

"This type of online event is a first for us," Glanzer continued, "and we are grateful for the support of all involved. Our hope is that Comic-Con can provide a small respite from the confines of various stay-at-home orders. While we can't be together in person, we can be together online."

18 June 2020

Free Comic Book Day 2020 to Take Place July 15 through September 9

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Free Comic Book Day 2020 to Take Place July 15 through September 9
Free Comic Book Day 2020 to Take Place July 15 through September 9 (image via Free Comic Book Day site)
Free Comic Book Day, the comic book industry's largest annual promotional event, is traditionally scheduled to take place the first Saturday in May each year. However, the impact and spread of COVID-19 prevented the event from being celebrated at its normal time this year. Now, the beloved event has been rescheduled and reworked to take place throughout July and early September in order to accommodate social-distancing and store capacity regulations across the country, effectively making it Free Comic Book Summer!

Scheduled to take place between July 15 and September 9, retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window. Release of these titles may vary from shop to shop, as retailers are encouraged to release the books as they see fit for their unique circumstances.

Retailers may release one free title a day, make all of that week's free titles available at once, or any other plan that works for them. Free Comic Book Summer is designed to be flexible and customizable so retailers and consumers can get the most out the event.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 to Take Place July 15 through September 9
Available on July 15, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020: X-MEN will feature a brand-new X-MEN story by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz that will lead into the game-changing X OF SWORDS crossover! The second story will also foreshadow an upcoming epic tale by Tom Taylor and Iban Coello. (image via Free Comic Book Day site)
"Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun," said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. "In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer... and there's so much fun to discover in this year's FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I'm confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that'll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!"
  • Free Comic Book Summer will feature 45 of the previously announced titles from publishers like Marvel Comics, Image Comics, BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Dynamite Entertainment, DC, and more! 
  • The 45 titles are designed to appeal to a broad range of tastes and run the gamut from superhero stories, to TV and movie tie-ins, to sci-fi adventures, all-ages tales, and beyond. 
  • There will also be two educational support titles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Gemstone Publishing.
A complete listing of all 45 FCBD titles, including the 10 Gold Sponsor and 35 Silver Sponsor comic books, can be viewed online at freecomicbookday.com

Free Comic Book Day 2020 to Take Place July 15 through September 9
On July 22, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM will provide two exciting tales connected to the coming major storylines in VENOM, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and BLACK CAT from top creators Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, Jed MacKay, and Patrick Gleason and more! (image via Free Comic Book Day site)
  • To view the weekly release schedule, click here.

SOURCE: Diamond Comic Distributors

27 May 2020

The Society For The Promotion Of Japanese Animation Announces First Ever Anime Expo Lite - A Free Virtual Japanese Pop Culture Event

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The Society For The Promotion Of Japanese Animation Announces First Ever Anime Expo Lite - A Virtual Japanese Pop Culture Event
The Society For The Promotion Of Japanese Animation Announces First Ever Anime Expo Lite - A Free Virtual Japanese Pop Culture Event
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is thrilled to unveil its plans to offer Japanese pop culture fans from around the world an opportunity to experience all things anime from wherever they are with Anime Expo Lite

This FREE two-day livestream event will begin on July 3, proclaimed Anime Expo Day by the City of Los Angeles in 2015, and continue through July 4.

Anime Expo Lite will feature content from industry partners such as Bushiroad, Crunchyroll, Pony Canyon, VIZ, and more! (
More exclusive content will be announced in the coming weeks.)

SPJA has also revealed the key art that was planned as the program guide cover for the since cancelled Anime Expo 2020, which now features the Anime Expo Lite logo instead. The AX mascot characters Ai and Xeno are pictured with the cast of The World End With You.
"We are excited to be able to parlay the traditional Anime Expo into a virtual experience. Since 2017, AX has been livestreaming select panels as well as from the convention floor, so it is a natural transition for us to produce a virtual event. As everything in 2020 is different, we see a unique opportunity to be able to share our passion for Japanese pop culture not only with those that would have attended AX but now with any anime fan no matter where they live," said Ray Chiang, CEO of The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, AX's organizer. "With our Anime Expo Lite line-up, we know fans will find plenty of events and special guests to entertain and keep them engaged."
Fans can expect to see:
  • Special Guests, including artist/character designer Yoshitaka Amano
  • Panel discussions with industry leaders
  • Industry announcements
  • Live content
  • Pre-taped content from global partners
  • Q&As
  • Giveaways
For more information, and to keep up-to-date on Anime Expo Lite announcements, please  click here to 
sign-up 
For 29 years, AX has been the preeminent event featuring the newest anime films, television series, fashion, video games, manga, dance, music concerts, exhibitors and exclusive convention merchandise, all combined to deliver unforgettable experiences to fans of anime and Japanese pop culture. AX will return to the Los Angeles Convention Center July 2-5, 2021. 

For more information regarding Anime Expo please visit anime-expo.org.

About SPJA:

SPJA is a non-profit organization dedicated to popularize and educate the American public about Japanese entertainment and pop culture, as well as provide a forum to facilitate communication between professionals and fans. 

About Anime Expo:

Anime Expo (AX) brings together fans and industry from Japan, the US, and all over the world for the largest celebration of Japanese pop culture in North America. 

Taking place every year since 1992, Anime Expo features the best in Japanese entertainment, music, fashion, and video games. 
SOURCE: Anime Expo

18 March 2020

Black Desert Mobile Runs Pre-Registration Event For New Dark Knight Class

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Black Desert Mobile Runs Pre-Registration Event For New Dark Knight Class
Black Desert Mobile Runs Pre-Registration Event For New Dark Knight Class
Pearl Abyss today announced that Black Desert Mobile is running a pre-registration event for its upcoming Dark Knight class. Adventurers can now take an early look at Dark Knight, the seventh class and one of the most highly-anticipated classes to arrive in Black Desert Mobile.

Adventurers who log in and pre-register for the new Dark Knight class by March 24 will receive a Red Rose Chest and a Gold Rose Chest which can be opened on March 24. These items will give Adventurers exclusive rewards including Mystical grade items.

Black Desert Mobile's massive PvP feature, Siege War, has been updated. Siege War now has two time slots—7pm to 9pm and 9pm to 11pm—on each server. Adventurers who weren't able to participate in Siege Wars due to limited time slots now have more options to join the battlefield!

Moreover, camp structures can now be upgraded to a maximum level of 7. This gives Adventurers the ability to produce even more goods and operate at greater efficiency. In addition, the maximum amount of Boss Knowledge you can obtain has been increased, letting adventurers earn more special rewards.

About Black Desert

Black Desert is Pearl Abyss' open-world action MMORPG with cutting-edge visuals and skill-based combat that redefines the genre. With the most developed character customization system of any game currently on the market, users can break out of the norm and make unique characters that truly represent themselves. Its intuitive controls, beautifully designed world, and extensive lore will excite both newcomers and veterans of MMO games and action RPGs.

About Pearl Abyss

Best known for the MMORPG franchise Black Desert, Pearl Abyss is a leading developer in the game industry. Established in 2010, Pearl Abyss has since developed Black Desert for PC, mobile, and console, and is developing Shadow Arena for PC and console. 

All of Pearl Abyss' games are built on the company's own proprietary engine and are renowned for their cutting-edge graphics. 

The company is also developing Crimson Desert, DokeV, and PLAN 8 and is poised to continue its growth through 2020 and maintain its position as one of Asia's leaders in game development.

SOURCE: Pearl Abyss

16 March 2020

Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode

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Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
"The Cauldron" - London (image via thecauldron.io)
The startup technology company whose mission it is to "bring fantasy to life with science, technology, and design" has entered into Investment Stealth Mode for its community of fantasy fans.

The company, which became known around the world for its immersive Potions Experience that blends IoT magic wands with molecular cocktails, has welcomed over 300,000 guests in London, New York City, Edinburgh, and Dublin.


Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
"The Cauldron" - New York City (image via thecauldron.io)
Details of the investment round have not yet been released, but the company is aiming to turn its customers into owners, and offer exclusive rewards and benefits alongside shareholder status. The Cauldron has simply put up a registration page for interested parties to be included in its Private Investment Mode. (Date TBA.)
The Cauldron has also recently announced its newest concept in London -- Superheroes Bar, a superheroes pop-up experience that brings customers into the world of heroes, villains, and the comic book multiverse in an immersive cocktail class.

About The Cauldron Entertainment Group:

The Cauldron venues are located in London, New York, Dublin and Edinburgh and provide a wizard-themed immersive cocktail-making experience where guests brew magical potions by using interactive magic wands and molecular mixology. 

It is a magical, immersive experience which celebrates concepts from fantasy novels and magical lore, all brought to life by science, technology and design.

Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
"The Cauldron" (image via thecauldron.io)

About The Magic of Things:

The Magic of Things is the imagineering studio that produces The Cauldron Magical Experience and other immersive concepts that bring fantasy to life with science, technology, and design. 

The studio is a mix of hardware and software engineers, prop and set designers, and experts in hospitality that are creating the next concepts in food and beverage that blend technology with the guest experience. 

The studio is led by co- founders Matthew Cortland and David Duckworth.

Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
The Magic of Things - banner (image via thecauldron.io)

More About Superheroes Bar:

'Superheroes Bar’, a new interactive cocktail experience located in East London, is due to open as a limited pop-up on March 26th for only three months.

This new creation is brought to you by the makers of The Cauldron, the well-known wizard-inspired cocktail experience. Ordinary mortals will be taken on an immersive comic book-inspired experience through the superhero multiverse, where they will discover and unleash their new found abilities to create super-charged drinks as they train to become the World’s #1 Hero.

Once guests enter the hidden lair in Dalston, they will be suited with a mask and cape, and free to set out on their journey through the bar’s comic-inspired world, collecting elemental ‘Stones of Power’ that are used in the drink-making process. Before allowing their powers to be unleashed, guests must first learn how to wield the ‘Beer Stone’, ‘Cocktail Stone’ or ‘Mocktail Stone’ to pour a welcome drink. 

Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
'Superheroes Bar’ - Glove of Power
Once the stone of their choice has been mastered, superheroes in training are led to their own interactive workstation, where, in a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style experience, the decisions that guests make will impact which powers they develop. Each new adventure draws inspiration from a different comic book style; Noir, Anime, Golden Age and Silver Age.

Superheroes will test out these new powers by concocting three interactive cocktails, which are inspired by comic book tropes and molecular mixology. 

Wizard Startup "The Cauldron" Goes Into Investment Stealth Mode
'Superheroes Bar’
The Cauldron’s co-founders Matthew Cortland and David Duckworth designed ‘Superheroes Bar’ to surprise, delight, and strike at the heart of the comic fandom in London. While Duckworth leads cocktail creation and experimentation, Cortland brings his fascination and knowledge of science and technology, to create a one-of- a-kind interactive experience. 
Duckworth comments; “The menu at Superheroes Bar is the product of a team of expert mixologists and comic book geeks coming together to create an experience that will excite and astound fans of graphic novels and superheroes.” 
Cortland adds; “Just as we have created an immersive magical experience at The Cauldron, our in-house ideation studio, The Magic of Things, has brought the history of the comic book multiverse to life through interactive technology and science. As a result, there will be plenty of plot-twists for guests to enjoy."
  • The entire Superheroes experience can be non-alcoholic, gluten-free, and vegan friendly. All drinks are made to be multi-sensory, interactive and feature different effects, such as fire, UV, smoke and expansion.

  • Tickets for ‘Superheroes Bar’ can be purchased at www.superheroes.bar, and are available on a first come first serve basis. Tickets start at £29.99 and include all the materials and supplies, three cocktails and the immersive experience which lasts around 1hr 45min.
  • Disclaimer: Superheroes Bar is not associated or affiliated with any comic book, movie, entertainment franchise or any specific comic book or cinematic hero, villain, or character. This experience looks at classic comic book tropes and themes, and creates its own world of heroes, villains, and ordinary (but no less important) people. 
SOURCE: The Cauldron

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