Take Up Computer Games, Not Crosswords, As You Age

People aged 50 and over who were assigned to play the computer game Double Decision (formerly Road Tour) for at least 10 hours over eight weeks showed a clear improvement compared with the normal loss of cognitive function as people age, says the Wall Street Journal. The amount of improvement ranged from 2 to 7 years. People who were assigned to do crossword puzzles showed no such improvement. Previous research shows that older people who play various kinds of cognitive games have better health outcomes and better driving records.

SOURCE: When Computer Games May Keep the Brain Nimble

 

 

The Art of Illustrations, Web Comics and 3D Printing

Continuing the week's look at PBS Digital Studios, today we catch up with PBS Off Book. Last time we took a look at Off Book I shared mini documentaries on creative coding, graphic design and other great explorations. Today we look at illustrations, web comics, 3D printing and competitive gaming

The internet has given birth to yet another new medium: webcomics. Moving beyond the restrictions of print, webcomic artists interact directly with audiences who share their own unique worldview, and create stories that are often embedded in innovative formats only possible online. Sometimes funny, sometimes personal, and almost always weird, web comic creators have taken the comic strip form to new, mature, and artistic heights.

Much attention has been paid to 3D Printing lately, with new companies developing cheaper and more efficient consumer models that have wowed the tech community. They herald 3D Printing as a revolutionary and disruptive technology, but how will these printers truly affect our society? Beyond an initial novelty, 3D Printing could have a game-changing impact on consumer culture, copyright and patent law, and even the very concept of scarcity on which our economy is based. From at-home repairs to new businesses, from medical to ecological developments, 3D Printing has an undeniably wide range of possibilities which could profoundly change our world.

Illustrators articulate what a photograph cannot. Using an array of techniques and styles, illustrators evoke stories and meaning in a variety of mediums, from editorial illustration in magazines and newspapers, to comics books, to activist media. And as their tasks over the years have become less informational and more expressive, their individual voice as artists becomes all the more critical and beautiful, revealing an exciting and awe-inspiring age of illustration.

As games have increased in sophistication, they have become a stage for ever higher displays of human skill and brilliance. The result is a tier of the gaming world filled with startling disciplined, talented, and highly competitive players. Born out of arcade tournaments and LAN parties, the world of competitive gaming is now entering a mature phase, featuring major global events attended by thousands and watched by millions online. With valuable sponsorship and prize money of increasing value, competitive gaming is claiming a space similar to that of traditional sports. This new industry is still in its early stages, developing broadcasting models and negotiating the culture of its widening audience. But whether it's fighting games or MOBAs, the players and spectators are passionate, and individuals and leagues are working hard to elevate e-sports into the highest echelons of human achievement.

 

Inventing Magic Toys, Puzzles And Video Games

More fantastic episodes from PBS Digital Studios Inventors Channel. Inventors is a series of portrait videos by filmmaker and photographer David Friedman, chronicling the work of contemporary inventors from all walks of life. It offers rare glimpses into the inspiration for their creations.

Mark Setteducati is a magician and artist who uses principles of mathematics and illusions in the toys and puzzles he invents. He's also a founder of the Gathering For Gardner, a biennial celebration of the life of mathematician and writer Martin Gardner. Here he talks about how math and magic influence him as an inventor.

The patents for many of Mark's clever inventions can be found here.

Ralph Baer is often called the father of video games. His invention, the Magnavox Odyssey, was the first home console system. Last year he celebrated his 90th birthday the same year the Odyssey turned 40. Here he talks about those early days of video game history and why now, at 90 years old, he's still inventing.

You can see the original patent for the Magnavox Odyssey here.

Are Piracy, Knock Offs and Minecraft Good For Us?

PBS Idea Channel recently celebrated their one year anniversary. One year of provocative and funny questions to view the world from a new perspective. I am a big fan of the Idea Channel from PBS Digital Studios. In honor of their anniversary, over the next couple of days I'll be sharing some of their recent work, catching up with some and introducing new ones. 

If you're like us, you LOVE Game of Thrones. But if you're also like us, you may not, technically, have... cable. So how are we seeing this amazing show on HBO, which is stuck behind a pay wall? A huge amount of viewers (not us of course, no no no) are downloading the show illegally. But despite being the most pirated show of 2012, the Game of Thrones DVDs are top sellers, breaking HBO's own sales records! Could it be that piracy is actually HELPING the show?

Living in the consumer culture that we do, we've learned that specific brands can carry very different meanings and values. We're willing to pay hundreds or thousands more for a specific brand name item, but sometimes it can be tempting to go the way of the knock-off for a fraction of the price. The counterfeit industry is huge and isn't going anywhere, and companies spend huge amounts to dissuade people from buying "fakes". But are knock-offs REALLY a negative for the brand?

If you've watched past episodes of Idea Channel, you know we're huge fans of Minecraft. This totally amazing video game allows you to build your own world from scratch, what's not to like? But it may be good for more than just fun and games. Some experts have brought Minecraft into the classroom, allowing teachers to customize lessons and students to engage with concepts in new ways. And while educational games aren't new, Minecraft has some unique advantages that could usher in a new direction in education. In the future, students across the world may spend their class time punching trees.

A meteorite crashed into earth! This wasn't the first time and it won't be the last, but it is the first time such an event was captured by SO MANY CAMERAS! The incredible number of views and angles filmed was made possible by Russia's bizarre driving culture and the MILLIONS of car dash cams installed all over the country. But besides providing the world with some hilarious, frightening, and amazing footage, the dash cams also make us think about surveillance, and what role it will play in the future.

If you've ever played Team Fortress 2, you know how valuable hats are. To those who haven't: yes, HATS! If a community agrees on the value of something, then that thing can become a currency, to exchange for other goods. Just like american dollar bills (or euros, yen, or any other currency), or... bitcoins. Bitcoins are an online currency worth over $200,000,000, and though they are just 1s and 0s, some think that this is the future of money. On the other hand... mo bitcoins mo problems.

Transhumanism is a scientific philosophy that says technology will solve all our human biological constraints and that immortality is right around the corner (well not RIGHT around the corner, but WAY closer). They envision a world of endlessly euphoric robo-humans that represent the next step in evolution. And while this sounds super awesome, we had to ask, will this really make us happy? If you watch Futurama, than you know that the answer is probably NO. While not an exact illustration of transhumanism, Futurama does show a future of vast technological ability, where today's everyday problems are rendered moot, and yet the characters on the show still seem to find themselves in some very non-euphoric emotional states. Does this disprove what transhumanists expect for our future?

If you've ever talked to a vinyl purist (or are one yourself) you know that people can be pretty passionate about what format is king when it comes to music. And based on how much people like to brag about what band they saw live and how many times, we clearly value the authenticity of the live performance above all else. But when we see a performer live, we're judging them based on what we know from the mp3 or record that we've already listened to 1000 times. . . because what is a song SUPPOSED to sound like anyway? As music has evolved from solely performance into "media", the issue of what the most authentic even IS has become increasingly complicated. So which is the most authentic?