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DARPA setting up a $130 million 'virtual firing range' to help battle cyber attacks

The US government is serious about online security, just ask any one of its cyber commandos. Adding to its arsenal for battling the big bad hackers, Reuters reports that DARPA is working on a National Cyber Range, which would act a standalone internet simulation engine where digital warriors can be trained and experimental ideas tested out. Lockheed Martin and Johns Hopkins University are competing to provide the final system, with one of them expected to soon get the go-ahead for a one-year trial, which, if all goes well, will be followed by DARPA unleashing its techies upon the virtual firing range in earnest next year. The cost of the project is said to run somewhere near $130 million, which might have sounded a bit expensive before the recent spate of successful hacking attacks on high profile private companies, but now seems like a rational expenditure to ensure the nuclear missile codes and the people crazy enough to use them are kept at a safe distance from one another. DARPA has a pair of other cleverly titled cybersecurity schemes up its sleeve, called CRASH and CINDER, but you’ll have to hit the source link to learn more about them. Read more
World Bank report finds selling virtual goods in games more profitable than 'real' economy

A report commissioned by the World Bank’s infoDev unit has cast fresh light on one of the more fascinating aspects of our brave new interconnected world: the virtual economy. The “third-party gaming services industry” – where wealthy but impatient players have someone else grind away at online games for them in exchange for monetary reward – is one of the focal points of the study, chiefly owing to it having generated revenues in the region of $3 billion in 2009 and now serving as the primary source of income for an estimated 100,000 young folks, primarily in countries like China and Vietnam. What’s encouraging about these findings is that most of the revenue from such transactions ends up in the country where the virtual value is produced, which contrasts starkly with some of the more traditional international markets, such as that for coffee beans, where the study estimates only $5.5 billion of the $70 billion annual market value ever makes it back to the producing country. The research also takes an intriguing look at the emerging phenomenon of microwork, which consists of having unskilled workers doing the web’s version of menial work – checking images, transcribing bits of text, bumping up Facebook Likes (naughty!), etc. – and could also lead to more employment opportunities for people in poorer nations. To get better acquainted with the details, check the links below or click past the break. Read more
US opts to derez virtual fence along Mexico border, replacing it with more affordable measures

Remember that hugely ambitious “virtual fence” that the US Homeland Security department was so keen on blowing a few billion dollars on? Well, following a bunch of setbacks and delays in its development, it’s now been determined to be too darn expensive and is being scrapped. That’s not without splashing some cash, however, as it’s estimated that a billion dollars has already been spent on installing sensor towers along a 53-mile stretch of the Arizona border with Mexico. The plan now is to redirect funds to more conventional (and commercially available) surveillance measures, such as thermal imaging and unmanned aerial drones, which is estimated to cost $750 million to cover the remaining 323 miles of Arizona’s border. Whatever happens, keeping illegal immigration and contraband smuggling to a minimum isn’t going to be a cheap task. Almost makes you wonder if this isn’t a problem better solved by non-technological means. Read more
BlindType vows to autocorrect all wrongs with your iPhone or Android virtual keyboard (video)

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets too fat to be able to dial a number? Well, he wouldn’t have had that problem had BlindType been around. This soft keyboard is described by its makers as being extremely resilient to inaccurate input and looking at the demo video after the break, you kinda have to agree – it seems to have a pretty kickass predictive algorithm. Aside from that, the keyboard also dynamically adjusts to wherever and however you choose to type, meaning its size and orientation track along to your input, which goes some way to justifying the somewhat odd name (it’s meant for blind operation, not blind people). Text can be inserted without the keyboard even being on screen, while spaces are added by swiping to the right. BlindType should be coming to Android and iOS devices some time in the near future.

[Thanks, Fadl]

Update: We asked BlindType’s makers whether implementing their software will require replacing Apple’s default button slate and they’ve confirmed that it would. They’re making and submitting it for iOS use, nonetheless, “to put pressure on Apple to finally allow this kind of thing.” Read more
L'Artisan Electronique ushers in the era of the virtual pottery wheel (video)

Want to reenact Ghost but don’t care for all the messy bits? Let lasers do the work for you. L'Artisan Electronique uses a laser scanner to detect your hand-sculpting gestures, transfers their gently urging instructions over to a computerized 3D model, and – should your production exhibit sufficient creativity or je ne sais quoi – prints it out using a 3D ceramic printer. This is part of a Design by Performance exhibition taking place over in Belgium and is seriously one of the cooler things you’re going to come across today – or any other day, for that matter. See it on video after the break. Read more
Pioneer DDJ-T1 review

Another day, another digital DJ interface: hardware controllers for Traktor and other mixing software occupy an expanding market, to be sure, and Pioneer’s latest entry into the upmarket side of the fold is a beefy contender. Its differentiating features are distinctly vinyl-flavored: a pair of grooved, free-spinning jog-wheels with lighted time indicators and a pair of “needle search” touch strips. Are they forward-thinking innovations or just another cultural tip of the hat to an ancient medium? Click on to reveal our deepest thoughts on the gunmetal-tinted, Terminator-inspired* DDJ-T1.

*Terminator inspiration purely conjectural
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The Sky Factory brings the lorf's most beautiful creation to your ceiling (video)

Sometimes when we’re sitting at our interplanetary Engadget HQ blogging about terrestrial tech, we miss the comforts of home. You know - stuff like Chipotle, Crystal Pepsi, and checking out some good old-fashioned leaves and things breezing around in the skylight. Then The Sky Factory sent us our own personal sky. In HD. We hid in the airlock while they were installing the arrays of HDTVs and video processors in our recessed ceiling, so now the illusion of lying in a field of gently waving aspens, magnolias, or palm trees is more reality than fantasy. Missing stuff is for amateurs. We’re still waiting for the clear soda and mega-burritos but this makes the wait a lot more tolerable.%Gallery-96757% Read more
VMware View brings virtual desktops to iPad with touchscreen-friendly controls (video)

Remote controlling your personal desktop from an iPad is one thing, but today VMware is offering something a little heftier – a streamlined app to connect to enterprise-class virtual desktops. Like Citrix Receiver, the idea is that you’ll get the iPad client for free, and hopefully pay to have the cloud computers served up, but instead of streamlining applications for tablet use, VMware’s app hands you customizable PC-like controls. There’s a handy-looking virtual touchpad you can use for fine control over the mouse cursor if your fingers prove too pointy, a set of Windows shortcut keys at the top of the virtual keyboard, multi-finger gestures and more – but why not just watch the video after the break to see what’s in store? Read more
VMware Android handset virtualization hands-on

VMware and LG’s virtualized Android OS demo at MWC 2011 is pretty slick. The speed of the transition from the owner’s OS to the virtualized OS is nothing short of amazing considering it is all running from the device’s SD card. As we posted earlier, the potential in the work world are pretty impressive: an employer can simply provision and add the new OS replete with all the security policies, remote wipe capability, security, VPN config, mail settings, and all that magic. Sure, VMware has started with Android and LG, but there’s apparently nothing holding them back from offering this on any smartphone platform – and honestly, we can’t wait to see more. But until then, the following video will have to do.

Read more
Citrix enlists iPhone 4 in its quest for 'Nirvana phone' portable desktop client (video)

Critix has been touting its “Nirvana phone” concept – a handheld device that can be paired with a monitor / keyboard for remote desktop use – for quite some time now. Back in February, the minimum hardware specs were nothing to challenging, and as it turns out, Apple’s iPhone 4 pretty much exceeds ‘em by a long shot. And it has VGA out capabilities and Bluetooth keyboard support. So, you can imagine where this is going. The company is back in what looks like the same depressing cubicle space to show off what looks to be a mature demo of the Receiver 4.0 virtual desktop client on an iDevice, pushing 1024 x 768 resolution and some gesture integration as a mouse replacement. There’s definitely some noticeable lag, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Video after the break. Read more
Phirtual bees make us feel pretty excited for the phuture

The somewhat rough look of the school project made by Karim Amrani in the video shouldn’t fool you – it’s a pretty cool implementation and combination of virtual experiences and physical sensation. Take a look at the full video to watch people’s reactions to the piece – it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

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Winscape virtual window makes the leap to Kinect in 4K-capable, 6-screen glory (video)

RationalCraft brought its surreal Winscape virtual window to market when the Wii was virtually the only game in town for affordable motion tracking. Microsoft’s Kinect has certainly changed the rules of the game since then, so it’s almost natural that a fourth-generation Winscape has just launched to make use of the much more sophisticated sensor. For a start, there’s no need to dress like Flavor Flav anymore: the camera can recognize anyone, even passers-by, without an oversized necklace. The larger-than-life footage used to generate the window effect has been given its own bump, too, and the app can now handle 4K video as long as the Mac underneath (sorry, Windows folks) is powerful enough to drive it. For those who truly want to be disconnected from reality, there’s even six-display support provided it’s all hooked up to a Mac Pro and a pair of three-output Radeon HD 5770 video cards. RationalCraft’s software is free to try out now, although the requirement for at least two big TVs, a Kinect controller and a fast Mac should say all there is to know about the practical cost of pretending the Golden Gate Bridge is visible from inside a living room in Cleveland.

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NTT DoCoMo's augmented 3D chat system lets you have your virtual cake

Google’s Project Glass has garnered lots of attention among Earthlings and Saiyans on the augmented reality front. Now NTT DoCoMo is serving up its take on the subject – a tablet-based interface it calls the “Live 3D Communication System.” An augmented version of video chat, the system lets users create virtual objects via speech and also check out 360-degree views of virtual environments by moving their tablet around. Use of a special range-imaging camera also allows the software to add people within virtual spaces. The technology is a prototype so it’s still a bit rough around the edges. For folks pining for a future with holodecks, however, this is the kind of baby step that’s likely needed to make such dreams a reality (though, to be honest, you’ll probably be long dead before a real holodeck comes to fruition). Folks whose appetites aren’t quite satiated by the video from the Wireless Japan 2012 show can also check the official Japanese promo in all its cake-filled, cheesy glory after the break.

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