GamesRead : Papercraft Changeable Robots actually transform

Do you love Transformers and papercraft? Then PaperFormed has a pair of Changeable Robot projects that are right up your crafty alley.

If you’re not familiar, papercraft is the act of planning out a 3D shape, breaking it down into pieces printed on heavy stock paper, then assembling them. Plans can be passed around for free or sold on sites like PaperFormed.

Racing Warrior — a take on Autobot hero Drift — is put together from 202 parts that come on six sheets of paper. After purchasing the plans for $10, you cut out pieces, bend, fold, and glue them into place in the order and manner specified in the 48-page direction booklet, and you get this sword-wielding robot that changes into a race car.

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Meanwhile, for $8 you can buy plans to make Rail Scout, a steam train take on Bumblebee inspired by the 2006 IDW miniseries Transformers Evolutions: Hearts of Steel. The 158 parts for the main project come on seven pages, but there are an additional pair of pages that allow crafters to make a section of railroad for the scout here to hang out on.

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Complexity-wise, Racing Warrior is classified as an expert level project while Rail Scout is referred to as advanced. Both have moving parts and change from vehicle to robot modes without removing any parts. If you’re not sure whether papercraft is up your alley or not, PaperFormed and Cut & Paste Sci-Fi teamed up to offer free plans for an R2-D2 project!

GamesRead : 3D print your own gorgeous Dungeons & Dragons monsters for free

Dungeon Masters take note, it’s time to step up your game with some 3D monsters.

Designer Miguel Zavala has been going through the latest Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, designing 3D versions of the fantastical creatures held therein and posting the results on his Thingiverse page for fellow D&D fans to print out with their own 3D printers. The best part? His designs are free. So, with a series of downloads and a pile of printing material, you can really trick out your next D&D party.

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The figures are broken down into a series of pieces which you then put together. Zavala also paints his printouts, an activity that hearkens back to many gamers’ past doing the same with miniature figures purchased in their favorite game shop. Of course, you can also leave them the color of the material you have on hand.

Dungeons & Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974. Since then, the tabletop fantasy game has been bringing players together to go on epic quests filled with goblins, wizards, heroes, villains and, of course, fire-breathing dragons.

The Monster Manual itself not only features images of the game’s many adversaries, but also statistics that tell players and Dungeon Masters what it takes to defeat the creature. Considering D&D’s long history and plethora of monsters, it seems like Zavala will have plenty of source material to draw from as he creates a fantasy menagerie that anyone with a 3D printer can enjoy.

GamesRead : Tiny PCs can be beautiful, the Cirrus7 Nimbini is one of those PCs

The introduction of Mini-ITX motherboards back in 2001 allowed for desktop PCs to get tiny, but there hasn’t been many that are also great to look at. My weekend project to build a tiny, silent PC back in 2009 used a nice case functionality wise, but it was a little dull looking. Things have improved as more case manufacturers appeared and Intel introduced the even smaller NUC, and now Cirrus7 has just hit it out the park with their new Nimbini case/tiny PC.

Just look at this thing:

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It looks like a machined piece of aluminum more than a case that contains a working PC. The Nimbini is a smaller follow-up to the Nimbus PC introduced in 2013 which has the case acting as the heatsink. Measuring in at just 150 x 150 x 87mm it’s certainly small.

Using the latest Broadwell version of the NUC, it will ship with a Core i3, i5, or i7 processor inside, room for an M.2 SSD or a 2.5-inch drive, up to 16GB of RAM, and a choice between Windows 8.1 or Ubuntu 14.04. Alternatively you can just purchase the case and fit your own NUC board inside.

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Pricing has yet to be revealed, but we won’t have to wait long to find out. Pre-orders will start being accepted before the end of April, and although only a German version of the Cirrus7 website is available, an English-language shop is promised.

I don’t expect the Nimbini to be cheap. The Nimbus originally launched at 499 euros ($530), and that was for the base Celeron model. The Core i7 version was $800. The Nimbini is smaller, though, so hopefully comes in under that pricing.

GamesRead : Easy Fatalities in Mortal Kombat X cost $0.99

Mortal Kombat fans will be rejoicing today as the tenth installment of the game has been released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are expected later this year. However, the launch of Mortal Kombat X has been tainted somewhat by the discovery of some microtransactions appearing for the game.

Jeff Gerstmann of GiantBomb noticed the microtransactions and highlighted them on Twitter by posting the following image:

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Fatalities are worth explaining for those who are not familiar with them. They are basically a special finishing move that can be performed on an already defeated opponent in the game. However, it’s not just a case of pressing a button to perform one. Some knowledge and skill is required.

Typically, each character has their own Fatality they can perform, which requires they be at a set distance from their opponent and a sequence of quick button presses performed. There are three distances, variations on the button presses, and variations on the Fatalities.

What developer NeverRealm Studios and publisher Warner Bros. have done in Mortal Kombat X is offered players a way to greatly simplify performing a Fatality, but for a price. If you’re willing to pay $0.99 then you can buy yourself 5 Easy Fatalities. These are described as Fatalities performed with “simplified inputs” and reviews have confirmed you only need press two buttons when one is used. If you want to use them a lot, then 30 Easy Fatalities can be purchased for $4.99.

These microtransactions have no impact on gameplay as far as I can tell and aren’t required to play, but they come across as a cash grab and opportunistic when you consider the game costs between $60-$120 (depending on add-ons). Will gamers buy them? Probably, and probably just enough to warrant them being a worthwhile inclusion meaning it’s something that will be repeated in other games.

GamesRead : Japan’s robot hotel opens July 17

The robots are coming, but you don’t need to worry about welcoming your new electronic overlords. Quite the opposite, in fact: they’ll be waiting to welcome you – to a fancy new hotel in Japan!

The Henn Na (Japanese for “strange hotel”) will officially open its doors to guests on July 17, 2015, and when it does it will be staffed by a legion of robots. They’ll be ready at the front desk to check you in. They’ll keep your room and the common areas of the hotel spick-and-span. They’ll even carry your luggage to and from your room, likely without turning up a robotic palm to ask for a tip when they get there.

Its owners are trying to create the most efficient, modern hotel in the world. There will still be a human complement, but in the future they hope that up to 90% of hotel services will be handled by robots.

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They’re not just doing away with inefficient human staff, they’re also dumping those annoying key cards. At the Henn Na, facial recognition tech will let you in to your room.

Initially, a single wing with 72 rooms will be ready to accommodate guests. A second (with an additional 72 rooms) will open up sometime next year. Single rooms will go for about $60 per night. Upgrading to a double will cost you an extra $15. That’s slightly cheaper than some other nearby hotels in Sasebo staffed by actual people, which stands to reason: boosting efficiency often reduces costs, after all.

If you’re trying to book a stay at Henn Na during a busy time, you may have to fight for your room — not literally, say, with one of its robot bellhops. You’ll have to bid against other customers, but there’s a cap to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. The max bid is around $120.

Seems like a reasonable price for an early sneak peek at our clean, efficient (and hopefully not at all life-threatening) robotic future, doesn’t it?

GamesRead : GTA V PC failing to install because of Windows username problem

Today is the day many PC gamers have been waiting 18 months for: GTA V has finally been launched for Windows, complete with a brand new Rockstar Editor for creating your own videos. However, there is a problem, and it not only stops the game from being played, it can’t even be installed.

Rockstar has acknowledged that there is an issue relating to the Windows username being used. It turns out only a subset of possible characters in the username is supported. If you have unusual characters in your Windows username, it’s likely the game won’t download, install, and ultimately allow you to play.

The supported characters right now include:

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Anything else will cause a problem, and you can’t just rename your user account to bypass the issue.

There is a fix in the works, but it won’t be available for a while (Rockstar hasn’t given an ETA). You can temporarily fix the problem, though, with a little work. As the problem is with the Windows username, all you need to do is create a new Windows Administrator user account on your PC which only uses the supported characters listed above in the username. Restart your machine, login using the newly created account, and install GTA V without issue. Simple.

This doesn’t look like a hard problem for Rockstar to solve, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be kept waiting a few days for the patch to fix it. With that being the case, a new user account creation is the only way to go, however frustrating that may be to setup and remember to use.

GamesRead : NYC Resistor taught me how to cut things with a laser

There’s a workshop in the middle of Brooklyn where strange geniuses meet. It’s a hackerspace, filled with tools and equipment and materials for its members to design and construct bizarre, clever new devices. It’s also open to the public a few nights a week, and I took a class there on how to use a laser to cut things.

NYC Resistor is a hacker collective and hackerspace, and it’s a place to behold. It’s a workshop on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, tucked in a large, industrial brick building a few blocks away from Atlantic Terminal. It holds 3D printers, soldering stations, computers, and lots of gadgets. It also has a 60-watt Epilog laser that can cut or etch wood, acrylic, glass, metal, and other materials.

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Basically, it’s a place for clever people to build clever things. NYC Resistor is semi-public, with a few dozen full members at a time who can work on projects at the space. It’s not a cloistered workshop, though; it holds regular classes on using the Epilog laser, using Arduino, and various other electronic, robotic, and craft technologies. It also is open to the public Monday and Thursday evenings, so anyone can work on their own projects.

I attended the Epilog laser class on Saturday, taught by NYC Resistor contributing member Olivia Barr. It was a $76, four-hour session that walked me (and several other people in the class; this is one of the most popular classes at NYC Resistor, and sells out weeks in advance) through formatting image files for use with the Epilog laser, loading those files on the computer connected to the laser, and safely using the laser with various materials.

It was an informative class that showed me that using a 60-watt laser for cutting and engraving things is both easier and trickier than I would have expected. You basically feed a vector image file (or combination vector/raster, for engraving and cutting) into the computer, tell the laser what material you’re using, and “print” the picture onto the material. You also have to be careful to align your material properly, focus the laser, keep everything ventilated and clear, and tweak your settings as you go to make sure what you want cut gets cut, and what you want etched gets etched. My first few tries resulted in acrylic that didn’t quite get cut properly, and etchings that didn’t consistently leave a mark.

On the bright side, now that I took the class, I can return to NYC Resistor on public nights and use the laser when it’s available for future projects. And hopefully, become more proficient at using it without wasting precious acrylic and time. People who took the class can use the laser on craft nights for $0.75 per minute, which means you can cut nearly anything for very cheap. Etching takes significantly longer than cutting, however, and so is more expensive.

And what did I make at the class?

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Well, we’ll see.

GamesRead : Gadget turns your toothbrush into a game controller

For years, dentists and inventors have tried all kinds of tricks to get kids (and grown-ups) to brush their teeth properly. One approach they haven’t tried: turning a toothbrush into a game controller. Well, someone has finally done it.

Meet the Playbrush, a high-tech accessory for modern brushers. It’s not a toothbrush. Playbrush is a small “boot” that slips over the end of just about any ordinary toothbrush. Inside, there’s a small PCB with a Bluetooth 4.0LE chip and a rechargeable battery.

Pair Playbrush with your smartphone or tablet, and you’re no longer holding a mere toothbrush. It’s now your key to high scores and bragging rights, not to mention a cavity-free mouth and fresh-smelling breath that will be the envy of your friends and co-workers. Brush properly in their example game, and your score will climb as your griffin eats flying goats (or rescues them, whatever is going on here).

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Its creators are focusing on 4-to-10 year-olds, the same group that gimmicks like Tooth Tunes have been aimed at. But what’s more fun: blasting two minutes of One Direction through your teeth or playing a video game while you brush? Still, while kids are the focus, they know that plenty of adults will be excited to get their hands on Playbrush, too.

As fancy and high-tech as those Oral-B Bluetooth smart toothbrushes might be, they’re not the oral hygiene party that Playbrush is. And for what it’s worth, the Playbrush games don’t just make sure you hit the two-minute mark. They also encourage proper brushing technique and track their progress over time.

It’s also a lot cheaper, at least if you back Playbrush on Kickstarter. A limited number of backers will score one for about $57. After that stash has been emptied, the price jumps to around $70. You’ll be getting more than a fun way to improve your brushing habits, too. You’ll also be doing a good deed. For every pledge above the £1 level the project receives, the Playbrush creators will send a toothbrush to a child in need.

GamesRead : You can now buy official Star Wars Stormtrooper costumes

Stormtroopers might not be the best muscle in the galaxy — their blaster accuracy skills could definitely use some work — but they remain one of the most iconic groups in all of film. When something looks that cool,  people want to get a piece of it for themselves. Sure, Stormtrooper action figures, statues, and props exist, but sometimes you just want to put on the armor yourself, walk through hallways, and do your best not to bump your head on futuristic doors.

That’s where ANOVOS comes in. The company has been making replica sci-fi costumes since 2009 and recently turned their attention towards the classic, iconic Stormtrooper duds.

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According to the pre-order page, the costume pieces were based on the Lucasfilm Archives along with on-screen costumes owned by private collectors. The resulting costume can be purchased all assembled for $1,200 or as a customizable kit with a finished helmet for $350 until May 4. After that, the price jumps up to $1,600 and $650 respectively.

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The armor features an adjustable rigging system to get a proper fit, as well as a blaster holster, belt, gloves, and fully lined interior armor pieces for sizes ranging from medium to 2XL. However, boots and blasters are not included.

This is not the only Star Wars offering ANOVOS sells. In fact, the company has a full line-up of costumes and replicas from the franchise. The same goes for Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. The Stormtrooper costume starts shipping this winter.

GamesRead : You may be able buy a robotic personal chef in a couple years

Centuries before you’ll ever struggle to achieve your dream of becoming a great chef, another robot will be whipping up culinary delights in one company’s vision of an ultra-modern kitchen. In 2017, Moley Robotics says they’ll be ready to sell the consumer version of their product. The robot itself isn’t something like Bender or the Jetson’s trusty housebot Rosie. It’s a pair of arms and two incredibly well-articulated hands that make the magic happen. London’s Shadow Robot Company developed the human-like hands, which has two dozen joints, and their motions are controlled by twenty motors and a whopping 129 sensors.

To train the robot to cook a dish, the company used 3D imaging to capture the movements of a human chef. In about an hour, the robot can whip up a nice crab bisque — pretty much the same amount of time it would take a human to prepare. Moley could give it a speed boost, but for now movements are kept slow and deliberate, which they say is to ensure it doesn’t alarm anyone who might be watching.

Right now, the bisque is the only dish it can cook, and it needs a little help doing it; ingredients were prepped and portioned out ahead of time. Down the road, however, it could be taught to do the prep work itself and Moley will have trained it to prepare thousands of recipes by the time it’s ready for sale.

How much will you need to save up by 2017 for the privilege of never having to cook again? About $15,000, but you’ll be getting more than a pair of disembodied robotic arms. Moley’s rig includes a dedicated fridge, sink, cooktop, and dishwasher so you won’t even have to scrub up after your new robot chef! In a related story, we’ve received word that PancakeBot feels threatened.