A Rubik’s Cube for Everyone

Designer Brian Doom’s creation may look odd, but it is quite possibly the most functional Rubik’s Cube ever created because it caters to both the sighted and visually impaired communities equally.

Doom’s design, which is based off of the classic Rubik’s Cube, adds–quite literally–a special touch.  Instead of featuring only colors, Doom has added a tactile feature to each color so that anyone with a visual impairment can figure out the different patterns on the cube.  The yellow squares have a rounded wooden knob attached to them, the white squares have a raised, rubber square attached, the blue square has a round, felt sticker stuck to it, the orange squares have a rounded plastic jewel glued to them, green squares have a small raised label stuck to them, and the red squares were painted black and have a small rounded screw raising out of the top of them.  Red was changed to black so that it couldn’t be confused with orange. 

Originally, this Frankenstein Rubik’s Cube was designed so that Brian could get an intuitive sense of where the squares moved as they spun around.  But he realized that his additions made the puzzle accessible to anyone with a visual disability, and even to sighted people who may wish for a new challenge as they try to solve it in the dark.

Such a simple idea has turned into something that gives everybody an equal chance to play with one of the world’s classic puzzles.

To read the original article, please go to http://www.walyou.com/blog/2010/03/23/rubik%E2%80%99s-cube-of-doom/

Superbowl 44 Most Watched Event Ever

Up until Sunday, the most watched televised event in America was the finale of the popular CBS show MASH, which in 1983 brought in just shy of 106 million viewers.  However, the match up between the Saints and the Colts served as the perfect venue to best that record.  Pulling in 106.5 million viewers, Superbowl 44 knocked the popular sitcom from its number one spot which it had held for nearly 27 years.

Before the game even happened, television executives were wondering if the massive amounts of snow and power outages on the east coast would hamper the number of viewers who would be tuning in.  However, it seems that the snow kept people inside and with their eyes peeled to the screen the entire time.  Many people thought that last year’s superbowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals had the potential to break the record.  Realistically, it did, though it came up short, bringing in 98.7 million viewers.

As they say, records are always made to be broken, and this one was especially made for that.  Back in 1983, there were an estimated 83.3 million television homes, compared to the roughly 115 million that there are now.  Also, with the power of the internet and social networking fueling anticipation of large televised events, it was only a matter of time until something came along that had enough clout to bring in the amount of people needed to claim the record. 

Personally, I’m glad the Superbowl was the first to best the MASH record instead of some reality dating show.  Only time will tell how long the Saints’ victory game will keep the number one spot.  But I doubt in today’s world it will take 27 years to beat it.   

To read the original article, please go to http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2010/02/saints-super-bowl-win-is-.html

James Cameron’s Avatar is Number One

As many have predicted, Avatar, the 3D movie masterpiece that has left audiences stunned the world over, has finally become the highest grossing movie of all time. As of Sunday, the movie surpassed James Cameron’s previous record holder, Titanic, with worldwide sales of 1.292 billion dollars, besting it by more than 50 million dollars. Titanic still holds the record for the highest sales in the US, but only leads by 49 million dollars. Avatar has earned over 100 million dollars the past 6 weekends in a row with no sign of waning popularity, so it is doubtful that Titanic won’t sink to number two in that category as well.

If inflation is factored in, then Avatar still has a way to go, since Titanic’s previous numbers would translate into roughly 2 billion dollars in sales today. However, both of them don’t even come close if you compare what Gone With The Wind would’ve made in today’s numbers. The 1939 love story made 400 million dollars after its release, which would be equal to almost 6 billion dollars today.

To read the original article, please go to http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/2010/01/26/2010-01-26_avatar_ends_titanics_reign_as_highest_grossing_movie_ever.html

Simon Cowell is on his way out

Simon Cowell, the famous talent judge with the often brutally honest opinion, has announced that this will be his final season as a judge on American Idol.  His eyes are set on a new talent show with less restrictions and, more specifically, a lot more money for him.  He intends to bring his popular British talent show, The X Factor, to the states and dig through the American talent pool to find the next rising star.  Cowell will serve as executive producer and talent judge once the show launches in America sometime in 2011, making it a much more lucrative job for the stern talent assessor.

Oddly enough, Fox doesn’t plan on getting rid of American Idol once Simon departs.  As of right now, nothing is officially laid out, but it seems like American Idol and The X Factor might fill up the winter and summer line-ups nicely.  Though, American Idol producers will have to find someone just as bold as Simon if they hope to keep the judging on the show as edgy and talked about as it currently is.

Also up in the air is the new panel of judges for Simon’s new show.  Many have asked if Paula Abdul, who left American Idol last season, would be among them.  Simon gave no definitive answer, but spoke highly of Paula, saying that he missed her and that he intends to work with her again in some capacity.

To read the original article, please go to http://tvwatch.people.com/2010/01/11/simon-cowell-leaving-american-idol/

Conan O’Brien Says ‘Farewell’ to Tonight Show

It seems that Conan’s time as the host of the Tonight Show on NBC will be short-lived.  The popular late night host has essentially conceded at this point and is in negotiations regarding severance contracts with NBC.  The show that NBC promised him after Jay Leno looked on to retirement is now being taken back.  Sources say that Conan’s contract will net him a buy-out of roughly thirty millions dollars, but Conan’s main concern is that the staff of his show will be taken care of properly. 

While nothing is etched in stone at this point, nearly everyone is expecting that Jay Leno will return as the host of the Tonight Show after his primetime show produced poor ratings and negatively affected NBC affiliates.

The largest question mark in all of this revolves around NBC.  The network’s handling of the situation has left many puzzled and may affect it’s future ratings as a result, regardless of what programming they offer.  NBC also needs to consider the possibility that O’Brien will transfer to another network and compete with them directly, perhaps even during the same time slot as the Tonight Show.

Despite his recent treatment, O’Brien has remained classy, composed, and of course, funny.  Wherever he ends up after all of this, those traits will surely follow. 

To read the original article, please go to http://abcnews.go.com/Business/end-nears-conan-obrien-tonight-show/story?id=9596258

Video Games for the Blind

Virtual reality video games are beginning to become a part of blindness research as well as entertainment for the blind.  Collaborative research being done by the University of Chile and Harvard Medical School involving three PC based video games is underway.  In the games, blind players rely on audio cues to navigate through a maze, a subway station, or real world buildings.  Sounds like footsteps and doors closing in the background of the game give the players information to interpret as they move through the virtual world.  The players use a keyboard to move throughout the three dimensional levels, eventually building a mental map of the virtual space.  

The initial goal of the study was to create a video game for blind children so that they would be able to develop spatial and cognitive skills, and to enforce social skills when played with other children.  The games can also be used as an orientation tool as well.  By creating a virtual environment, a blind person could familiarize themselves with an otherwise unfamiliar building before even stepping foot inside.  Researchers also hope that they will be able to work with players who are willing to have their brain activity monitored as they play.  In doing this, it might be possible to gain a better understanding of how the brain interprets audio cues in order to make a cognitive spatial layout of an area. 

There are roughly fifty video games that have been developed for blind players.  Some of them are similar to classic arcade games used by sighted players, like Space Invaders, while others rely on audio synthesizers to read text based adventures to them as the game progresses.  Some games, like Texas Hold ‘Em Poker and other card games are equally accessible for both sighted and blind players.  With video games being used as research tools, and as technology improves to make them more accessible, there might soon be a new market created for blind gamers. 

To read the original article, please go to http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE58G2N320090917