Lufthansa debuts prototype in-flight VR experience

Lufthansa passengers flying from Frankfurt to Dubai on flight LH630 were the first to experience the airline’s new prototype “VR Moving Map”, while on board the Airbus A330.

Passengers wearing special VR glasses were able to view the moving landscape below them as a 3D map and even take part in a selection of 360-degree virtual excursions. The VR experience lasted for around 30 minutes, and the airline hopes that this trial will be useful to understand passenger interest and gain feedback on potential implementation.

As the aircraft flew over Vienna, some passengers virtually rode the Prater Ferris Wheel or even had the chance to virtually attend one of the city’s famous classical concerts.

The prototype was developed by Lufthansa in cooperation with 3spin, Lufthansa’s lead agency for virtual and augmented reality.

Paul Schön, Passenger Experience Designer for Lufthansa said: “VR is a growing trend for destination experiences and we wanted to help inspire our passengers while they were in the sky. The Frankfurt to Dubai flight was a first-time test for our new VR prototype, which was designed to further enhance the passenger experience.  I’m pleased to say this virtual exploration trip was very positively received by the participating passengers.”

Previously, this VR technology was offered to customers on the ground, but aims to be offered as an addition to the existing in-flight entertainment program. Lufthansa continued to test various possible applications of VR and AR for its customers, in order to determine which prototypes could be developed further.

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You might not be able to buy the dual-SIM 6.1-inch LCD iPhone

Dual-SIM phones are hugely popular in Asia, and there’s been some speculation that Apple is going to include dual-SIM support in one of its 2018 iPhones – the cheaper 6.1-inch model that will have an LCD rather than an OLED screen, to be exact.

Now a new report from Taiwan says the dual-SIM iPhone is real, but it’s going to be a China exclusive. According to supply chain sources, Apple is actually working on four different models, with the dual-SIM 6.1-inch LCD iPhone engineered specifically for the Chinese market as Apple looks to give sales in the region a boost.

iPhones account for less than a fifth of total phone sales in China, according to recent data, and the market is dominated by the likes of Huawei and Xiaomi. Apple is keen to push that figure higher and a dedicated Chinese edition would help with that.

Those 2018 iPhones in full

In fact this matches up with rumors stretching back as far as last year, when insider sources claimed that Apple was working on a cheaper iPhone with an eye on the Chinese market. Less expensive iPhones should equal more sales.

Whether or not this actually comes to pass next month remains to be seen, but we’re now almost certain that Apple is planning to launch three iPhones this year – a 5.8-inch OLED model, a 6.1-inch LCD model, and a 6.5-inch OLED model for those who want as much screen space as possible and are prepared to pay for it.

All the phones are set to adopt the iPhone X design style, with thin bezels and a display notch on the front, and we’re likely to get bumps in the internal spec and camera capabilities too. As yet, a launch date hasn’t been confirmed by Apple.

  • Could new iPhones really drop the 3.5mm headphone jack adapter?

Via AppleInsider

Nissan Qashqai (2018): the original compact crossover

When it was launched back in 2007, the original Qashqai was quite a bold move for Nissan.

With hatchbacks still dominating the sales charts at the time, going against the grain and offering something a little different was a big risk for the manufacturer. It paid off though, and with its raised driving position and 4×4 looks, the Qashqai popularized the compact crossover and the Nissan factory in Sunderland was soon working flat-out.   

While Nissan may have been the first to deliver an affordable family SUV, rival manufacturers have scrambled to get in on the act, with the likes of Skoda’s Koraq, Seat’s Ateca and Peugeot’s 3008 all now vying for attention. So does Nissan’s latest generation of the Qashqai still stand out from the crowd?

Designed, engineered and made in Britain

Nissan may have its headquarters in Japan, but the Qashqai’s DNA is British – not only was its design penned at Nissan’s London design studio, but it’s been largely engineered on these shores as well – and that’s not forgetting the Sunderland factory where the Qashqai is put together. 

Following something of a mid-life facelift the Qashqai has never looked so sharp; there’s a new grille and light arrangement, while our Pilot One Edition was sitting on some nice 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. 

It’s a similar story inside, where Nissan has refined and tweaked the interior, with new materials, seats and a new steering wheel all helping to deliver an upmarket feel.

Cabin space is good all round, with decent legroom both up front and in the rear, while our 16-month-old assistant enjoyed travelling in the rear in between naps (helped by the rear privacy glass to keep her in the shade). One little annoyance, though, is that the rear passengers don’t have the luxury of any vents for the air-conditioning, instead relying on the cool air to travel through from the front. 

If you’re not going to be taking up the rear with child seats, the seats fold down in a 60:40 split, while the boot has a capacity of 401 litres (430 litres on models without the subwoofer, of which more shortly) with the rear seats in place. That’s decent enough, but – as Mary the dog will testify – the Qashqai is outclassed by our Skoda Octavia estate for space.

Our test model was the Pilot One Edition, which in essence is the top-of-the-line Tekna+ spec Qashqai, which features Nissan’s latest semi-autonomous technologies (which we’ll come onto later) and comes equipped with a load of goodies.

Highlights include a 7.7-litre dual-driver subwoofer (which as mentioned takes up a little extra space in the boot), eight-speaker Bose audio system, DAB digital radio, a panoramic glass roof, and colour front, rear and side-view cameras.

However, the 7-inch NissanConnect navigation and entertainment touchscreen system is starting to look a little small compared to some rivals. It’s also positioned a little too low down on the central console, forcing you to look away from the road to see it.

There’s also no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though there is Nissan’s own NissanConnect app for both Android and iOS, which allows you to use some of your apps.

ProPilot semi-autonomous driving

Nissan is the latest car company to bring semi-autonomous driving, which we’ve seen from a few other manufacturers recently, including Audi and Volvo, to the masses with its ProPilot technology.

Designed to take some of the stress and monotony out of long journeys, this is still a ‘hands-on, eyes-on’ technology, with the driver remaining in control and responsible for the car. 

Activated by a button on the the Qashqai’s steering wheel, ProPilot activates all of the car’s autonomous systems simultaneously (this includes Intelligent Cruise Control and Traffic Jam Pilot, as well as Lane Keep Assist and Intelligent Lane Change Intervention).

Once you’re at your desired cruising speed (providing you’re travelling at over 37mph) , simply press the ‘set’ button on the wheel and the system will maintain the current speed and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. 

Some rival systems can be a little knee-jerk when a hazard is detected, but the ProPilot system seems incredibly well balanced

While that may not sound particularly impressive, the ProPilot system will also keep you within your chosen lane using data supplied by a camera mounted in the Qashqai’s windscreen and a radar behind the Nissan badge in the front grille, with subtle automatic steering inputs being made as required.

Some rival systems can be a little knee-jerk when a hazard is detected, but the ProPilot system seems incredibly well balanced, smoothly braking when something comes into your lane or you run up against traffic, while it’s not so laid-back that you feel you have to intervene yourself. 

The ProPilot package is available on Tekna and Tekna+ cars for £795 – but only on those fitted with the XTronic automatic gearbox. Manual cars can be fitted with the Drive Assist Pack (£495), which mirrors most of the ProPilot controls, but is unable to come to a complete stop and then resuming driving in traffic.

On the road

Our Qashqai was powered by Nissan’s 1.6-litre diesel engine, which produces a pretty decent 130bhp, while there are also 1.5-litre diesel, 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre petrol models. Depending on the model you opt for there’s a 6-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) auto transmission, while there are also front or all-wheel drive options.

While the ride was a little firm on our 19-inch wheels, the Qashqai is well suited to motorways and A-roads, delivering a smooth ride, while it’s also easy to navigate through town, with only light steering inputs required.

Verdict

While it might struggle to stand out from the crowd these days, it’s easy to see why the Qashqai has been such a huge success for Nissan. It’s a very competent all-rounder that’s a perfect family car – and even more so now, with the addition of semi-autonomous driving to take the stress out of those long journeys.

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How to watch the Kovalev vs Alvarez fight: live stream the boxing online from anywhere

You’re looking to watch the big Kovalev vs Alvarez fight, right? If you are, you’re in the perfect place to find a great live stream so you can tune into the WBO light heavyweight title fight.

Perhaps it won’t be the greatest boxing match you’ll watch this year, but it’s one of the most exciting one over the next few weeks where the defending champion Sergey Kovalev is planning to fend off Eleider Alvarez for a second time.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City is playing host to the big fight. But below we’ll talk you through the options for tuning into the fight – if you’re outside the US it doesn’t look good – and it may be you need to use a VPN service to find the best way to live stream the fight.

How to watch the boxing from absolutely anywhere with a VPN

How to watch Kovalev vs Alvarez: US stream

How to live stream Kovalev vs Alvarez fight in the UK

Alas, you won’t be able to watch this fight easily in the UK. The normal streaming services for boxing don’t seem to think it’s worth showing Kovalev vs Alvarez.

If you really want to stay up until 3AM to see the start of the fight, you’re best off using a VPN to watch the fight live. To do that, choose one of our VPN recommendations and pair it with one of the other streams on this page.

How to watch Kovalev vs Alvarez in Australia

Just like the UK, you won’t be able to watch this fight through an official provider if you live in Australia.

You have two choices: you can either miss out on the fight altogether (no thanks!) or you can use a VPN and combine it with the streams we’ve got on this page so you can watch it live.

Main image courtesy of hbo.com

How to live stream UFC 227: watch Dillashaw vs Garbrandt 2 from anywhere

The rematch you’ve been waiting for is set to take place at UFC 227. Cody Garbrandt is taking on champ T.J. Dillashaw in a bantamweight title battle that should be totally barnstorming!

In their last encounter back at UFC 217, Dillashaw won with a knockout in the second round as Garbrandt experienced his first career loss. As former teammates this was a huge fight that could only be outdone by a rematch…and here it is.

Having trained together for years, Dillashaw observed: “You obviously look for their strengths and weaknesses. I know the technical difficulties [Garbrandt] has. I know where he’s good, where he’s not […] I’m going to know Cody like the back of my hand. It’s going to be a good night for me.”

The UFC 227 undercard sees flyweight Demetrious Johnson take on Henry Cejudo as well as strawweight Polyana Viana battle it out with JJ Aldrich. You can stream all the action live using this handy guide, meaning you can watch from wherever you are in the world.

Live stream UFC 227 from anywhere in the world

UFC 227 live stream with the UFC Fight Pass (for free!)

How to watch UFC 227: US live stream

Either cable or go for Fight Pass
For US cable and satellite subscribers the options to watch are many with the fight aired on FS1, DirectTV, at&t, VerizonFios, Comcast, Dish, Cox and many more. Check out the service you use to see if it’s being shown. And if you have one but are out of territory, then read the information above to find out more about how to use a VPN to watch UFC.

If you’re a cord cutter or don’t bother with cable these days, then the obvious option is the UFC Fight Pass.

How to watch UFC 227: Canada live stream

Fight Pass is the best option in Canada
Canada’s Sports Net which usually airs a lot of UFC won’t have UFC 227. That means that the cheapest way to live stream UFC 227 is via the Fight Pass.

Pay-per-view on BellMTS is an option as well. But at $64.99, we don’t know why you wouldn’t go for the much cheaper UFC TV option instead.

How watch UFC 227: UK live stream

How to watch UFC 227: Australia live stream

Main image courtesy of staplescenter.com

How The Last Of Us raised the bar for video game narratives

When I think back to 2013’s The Last of Us, it’s not the stealth segments that stick in my mind. It isn’t the gunplay, or the platforming, or even the blind, shambling Clickers determined to chomp on your neck. Like most fans, I remember the story—the touching, often harrowing moments protagonists Joel and Ellie share. I remember the silent looks, the tears, and the hopeless decisions they faced.

It was, and remains, a masterpiece of storytelling. It’s still both gripping and polished enough to blast through in a handful of sittings, as I did the first time I played it. 

  • The Last Of Us 2 release date, news, and rumors

But how did Naughty Dog make its characters so believable? How did it make you want to push on despite the oppressive world? And how did it make you care so much about Joel and Ellie’s fate? 

I replayed it to find out, and spoke to a pair of developers of other narrative-led games to hear their take.

Less is more

Naughty Dog establish the tone in the first fifteen minutes. It’s Joel’s birthday, and his daughter, Sarah, has saved up to buy him a watch. They sit on the sofa making jokes (Joel: “Where did you get the money for this?” Sarah: “I sell hardcore drugs.”) and this brief glimpse into their lives raises the stakes for the impending disaster. 

A parasitic fungus has swept across the US, turning humans into aggressive, shambling monsters. You see it happen from Sarah’s perspective, first as she timidly searches for her father at home, and then as she rides in the back of Joel’s jeep, searching for an escape route.

As they reach the edge of town, a soldier tasked with containing the situation opens fire. Joel survives but Sarah, her face twisted in agony, dies in her father’s arms as he tries in vain to pressure her wound. It’s an emotional moment, and one I wasn’t prepared for when I first played it. 

It’s far more subtle than most death scenes, too. You don’t see Sarah as she passes away—the camera pans from Joel scrabbling to save her, to his brother, who is watching on, and then when it comes back to Sarah, she’s already dead. Naughty Dog shows similar restraint throughout, with long stretches of silence or off-screen action, leaving it up to your imagination to fill in the gaps. 

Jon McKellan, creative director of Stories Untold developer NoCode, tells me Sarah’s death scene knocked him back, too. “It totally stuck with me,” he says. 

“I’m a dad, and when you become a dad and see films and games that deal with children dying, it hits you a lot harder. It really took me by surprise, and set the tone for the entire game in a way that I wasn’t expecting.”

Plenty of games have dark plots in which you’re battling the odds with almost no chance of surviving, which can feel overwhelming, and put some players off. But The Last of Us keeps you hooked by offering hope. Ellie, who you soon meet, is a potential source of a cure for the infection, and it’s your job to protect her. “It’s like Children of Men, one of my favourite movies: it’s a really grim world that they’re in, but there’s a glimmer of hope, and that stops it feeling like all is lost,” McKellan says. 

It’s not about you

Still, The Last of Us is far from the only game that’s ever tasked you with finding a cure for an apocalyptic disease. So what sets it apart? Unlike in most games, you’re not focused on your own survival—it’s all about Ellie, which changes everything for McKellan.

He believes that the contrast between the grim world and Ellie’s innocence—she’s constantly making jokes, and shows no sign she understands how dire the situation is—makes you feel a duty to keep her alive. “She’s a companion with you for 99% of the game, and she’s quipping, and you build a relationship with her, so you’re being constantly reminded of the goal,” he says. 

“Every time you interact with something you’ll get a comment from her, she’ll pick up a comic book and make an off-the-cuff comment, and it adds up to something deeper than I expected.”

He also thinks that by giving you vague objectives—more often “keep moving” than “find power supply and turn it on”—The Last of Us never makes promises it later fails to deliver on, and so you have more motivation to push on. He draws a contrast with Dead Space, which plays out as a series of tasks the player fails at. 

“I love Dead Space, but as soon as someone gives you a mission, you know it’s not going to work,” he says. “In The Last of Us, you weren’t being given missions. It was vague in the minute-to-minute direction, and I think that’s a really good way of not teasing the player too much, and just letting them slowly get there themselves.” 

Naughty Dog needed players to care about the relationship between Joel and Ellie, and so the duo are always shown relying on each other. Joel is the protector, but Ellie saves his life more than once. 

When Joel is near-fatally impaled by a metal rod, Ellie is forced to provide for them, hunting in the woods and fending off would-be raiders until Joel recovers. In other words, they can only survive as a pair, and when Ellie tries to run off at one point, it nearly ruins everything.

Nobody’s perfect

Individually, Joel and Ellie are complicated, and flawed, which makes them more believable. Joel is particularly complex. Players might not like some of his choices—such as trying to palm Ellie off onto his brother later in the game—but the investment Naughty Dog makes in his internal struggles helps you empathise. 

For example, when he tells Ellie, seemingly spitefully, “You’re not my daughter. And I sure as hell ain’t your dad”, you understand the subtext. He’s not just saying it to be mean—he’s battling with his own uneasiness at being given a second shot at fatherhood. 

It’s not hard to imagine how torn he’s feeling: he wants to protect Ellie, but doesn’t want to replace his real daughter in any way. We only feel his pain because of what’s happened earlier, especially in the first 20 minutes.

The sequence when Joel is injured and Ellie goes hunting also shows just how tight a grip Naughty Dog has on the pace of the story. As soon as Joel is hurt we cut to a shot of a rabbit getting pierced by an arrow in the snowy woods. We don’t know what has happened to Joel, and the relatively mundane action lets the player’s mind wander and worry about his fate, building tension. 

It puts me in mind of the section towards the end of Red Dead Redemption when John Marston returns to his ranch to carry out simple chores. The languid pace emphasises the action in the sequences sandwiching it.

But what’s a perfectly-paced story without a great ending? Joel ultimately abandons the whole mission in order to save Ellie, condemning mankind because of his own needs. Again, it’s a flawed decision, but one players understand. Greg Kasavin, creative director of Bastion and Pyre developer Supergiant Games, found it particularly memorable.

“The raw intensity and fury and selfishness and despair fuelling Joel’s decision to get Ellie out of the Firefly headquarters at the end made for such a spectacular climactic sequence,” he says. 

“In the end, it was all about the people, and the Clickers and stuff no longer mattered. The final scene between Joel and Ellie is just such a great bit of writing, relying so much on body language and packing so much meaning into so few words.”

The trailer for The Last Of Us Part II focuses on Ellie, five years after the previous game’s conclusion.

Tying it all together

It’s not just the ending either where the acting elevates the story. The motion capture tech was cutting-edge at the time, and even now, the characters feel like real people, with believable gestures and facial expressions. 

The writing is purposeful and voice acting exemplary—but The Last of Us’s cast brings scenes together in ways few game casts can. “Its key scenes, such as its ending, relied on real acting between its principal characters to convey a depth of character that couldn’t come through in writing alone,” Kasavin says.

McKellan puts it down to the way the acting is captured in the first place. He likens the way some games capture voiceover to ‘radio adverts’, where actors turn up on the day and are given two hours to record all their lines. 

“Clearly with the Last of Us, those scenes had been rehearsed and refined, and it wasn’t just good writing and dialogue, they’d developed a good scene,” he says. “The approach they took was way beyond what you’d normally get in a game.”

Going above and beyond is a clear theme for the development of The Last of Us. Individually, the writing, acting, character development, plot, pacing and tone are some of the best we’ve seen—and Naughty Dog had them all pulling in the same direction. 

I don’t know if it can repeat the feat in The Last of Us Part II but, after replaying the first game five years later, I can’t wait to see them give it a go.

If you want to relive it, you don’t have to play through it all over again—you can just watch a movie made up of its cutscenes. Find that below, or take a look at the extended version with some story-relevant action sequences (I’d recommend it if you have the time).

  • The Last Of Us 2 release date, news, and rumors