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All-terrain, driverless Lego construction vehicle could be our future

Volvo Rottweiler

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The Volvo Rottweiler is an autonomous construction vehicle that can work in rough terrain. It’s equipped with a 3D printer that create the materials it uses to construct buildings. And it’s made of Lego bricks.

Vida András, a 27-year-old Romanian architect, designed the Rottweiler for a contest run by Lego Technic and Volvo Construction Equipment. Entrants were invited to imagine the construction machines of the future by identifying tomorrow’s problems and creating a machine that will tackle them. 

The Rottweiler took first prize out of 122 entries submitted from across the world. Lego most recently teamed up with Volvo Construction Equipment for the Zeux, a self-driving concept wheel loader released by Lego Technic in 2018.

The imposing Rottweiler measures 80x60x80 centimeters and takes 3,100 Lego bricks to build. With its four legs and detachable head, it looks more like it escaped from a sci-fi movie than a building site. That’s no accident. The judges were looking for futuristic designs, and András wanted to create something that evoked power and functionality.

‘The strength of it and the usefulness of it appeals to me the most,’ he said.

The Rottweiler and nine other contest entries are currently on display at London’s Transport Museum.

Solving tomorrow’s problems

While other industries have embraced 3D printing, András says it hasn’t been used to its full potential yet in construction. 3D printing could be used to experiment with new structure ideas and allow architects to design buildings using shapes that are ‘almost impossible to form by hand.’

The 3D printer is also key to the Rottweiler’s environment-conscious approach. ‘3D printing is a way of reducing the manufacturing waste,’ says András. He describes 3D printing as almost wasteless from source material to final product, adding that it could help reduce pollution from factories.

Volvo Icarus model

Runner-up James Cox of London created the Volvo Icarus, a mobile solar plant with off-road capabilities. It’s 100x60x40 centimeters and used about 4,000 Lego bricks. Cox says the name started out as a sort of joke — ’cause obviously I didn’t fly too close to the sun’ — but it suited his concept and sounded cool. So he kept it.

Like András, Cox wanted his entry to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.

‘Because the concept was to make a machine for the future, I thought if things aren’t environmentally friendly — if they’re not clean, if they’re not environmentally safe — they’re not going to work because fossil fuels will run out. Environmental standards are going to become stricter. We need a way around it, and it needs to be something that can work anywhere.’

Cox conceived the Icarus as a solar power generator. He then decided to make it mobile, adding the off-road chassis after he’d built the mechanics for the solar array.

András and Cox took the mechanical design process seriously, both emphasizing the research involved and the practical side of their work. Both started with a drawing, but then their approaches diverged.

András created the Rottweiler using a digital building tool. The design didn’t become a physical reality until he won the competition and Lego sent him the pieces required to create it. Meanwhile Cox worked freehand, building the Icarus with physical blocks. When he submitted his entry, he included a video of the mobile power plant in action.

‘A lot of entries are digital and they don’t actually exist and they don’t actually work,’ Cox says. ‘So I made sure that it had a video so you could see every single part that was listed. You could see it working.’

Volvo Rottweiler

Impressing the judges

It takes a lot to create a prize-winning Lego model: You need the imagination to tackle a design challenge. You need the practical knowledge to bring your vision to life. And you need the finished product to look amazing.

But there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ Lego builder. Some entrants are professional design engineers or graphic designers, but that’s not always the case. One of the runner-up models is a carrier drone created by a 13-year-old.

This wasn’t the first rodeo for either András or Cox. Both designers have won and placed in previous Lego competitions and both have an idea of how to catch a judge’s eye.

András says he took on a big challenge with the Rottweiler. Instead of building a digger or a bulldozer, he used the Rottweiler’s detachable heads to make it a multipurpose machine. The ambitious approach paid off.

‘The secret to wow a Lego judge is try not to wow a Lego judge,’ András said. ‘The best thing you can do is … just construct what wows you. And if you have 100% confidence in your construction, I think it will reach its purpose and I think it will wow everybody if it wows you.’

He also has an idea of how he could take the concept further. He would like to add playability functions, perhaps actually making it drivable, making the arm movable or using a Lego Mindstorm computer to make it programmable.

Meanwhile, Cox had some practical advice for anyone who wants to get ahead in a Lego competition: Go big or go home.

‘It’s gotta look good. It’s gotta look impressive. And it’s gotta… just look big,’ he says. Yes, you can do something clever with a small design, but if it doesn’t look great, it just won’t have the same impact.

András was also proud of his creation’s appearance, describing the Rottweiler’s animalistic look as one of his favorite features.

Judges from Lego and Volvo evaluated the entries based on how well the models were built, how futuristic their functionalities were and how exciting they looked. Arvid Rinaldo, who works in brand communication and partnerships at Volvo Construction Equipment, highlighted the winning designs’ unique features and use of futuristic technology.

‘It’s almost like they come out of a science-fiction movie,’ he said. ‘It’s really inspiring for our engineers to see … what people from all over the world can do.’

The Rottweiler and Icarus concepts are now on display at the London Transport Museum alongside eight more futuristic Lego models. The Future:Build exhibit is open through May 16.

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Nintendo Switch game deals: Save $20 to $25 on top titles

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The Nintendo Switch game console was without question one of the hottest gift items of 2018. Alas, the discounts on the system pretty much disappeared after Dec. 25, meaning you’re now stuck paying the $300 list price.

Correction: civilians will pay $300; Cheapskate readers can save $20. It’s not much, but it’s pretty much the best discount you’ll find anywhere. And see below for some unbeatable Switch game deals as well.

The console is being sold by Daily Steals via Facebook, and the purchase process is slightly different depending on whether you’re using a desktop browser or a mobile one (or the mobile Facebook app).

If you’re on desktop, you can get the Nintendo Switch in gray or red and blue for $279.99 shipped. That price is unlocked after five people ‘join’ the deal. (Remember Groupon in its early days? Same arrangement here.) Then the counter resets until five more people opt in.

I know: silly, and kind of a hassle, which is why it’s easier to do this via mobile (again, browser or Facebook app), where you can get that $279.99 price straight away, no five-person requirement. I don’t make the rules, folks, I just report the deals. 😄

Looking for some games to go with the Switch? Daily Steals — again via Facebook — has some great deals on some top titles, and here it doesn’t matter whether you’re on desktop or mobile. (The savings listed below are based on current prices at GameStop.)

Lego DC Super-Villains: $27.99 (save $25)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: $34.99 (save $25)

Super Mario Odyssey: $34.99 (save $25)

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: $34.99 (save $25)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: $39.99 (save $20)

Pokemon: Let’s Go (Pikachu or Eevee): $39.99 (save $20)

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There’s also a game bundle worth considering, and this one doesn’t involve Facebook: MassGenie has Super Mario Bros. U and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for $69.95, a savings of about $50.

See it at MassGenie

Finally, how about some deals on Nintendo Labo Kits? Best Buy currently has the Variety Kit, Vehicle Kit and Robot Kit priced at $39.99 each, a savings of $20 to 30.

See it at Best Buy

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Microsoft Studios changes name to more fun-sounding Xbox Game Studios

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Microsoft Studios got a small name change Tuesday to reflect the brand’s evolution ‘from its original roots.’

The new name, Xbox Game Studios, hints at the company’s ambitions to push the Xbox brand beyond its console origins. All of its first-party titles have hit PC in recent years and a game conference schedule indicated that it plans to bring Xbox Live support to iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch.

Xbox Game Studios is made up of 13 developers, some of which are responsible for major franchises such as Age of Empires, Forza, Gears of War, Halo and Minecraft, corporate vice president Matt Booty wrote in a blog post. These include:

The company got pretty aggressive in acquiring game studios in 2018, but Booty didn’t spill the beans on what the new additions are working on — some of them could be developing games for the Xbox One’s successor.

‘As a gaming organization, we have never been in a better position to deliver a diverse line-up of exclusive games for Xbox fans now, and in the future,’ he wrote.

Booty highlighted how its big upcoming titles, such as Crackdown 3 (which hits on Feb. 15) Gears 5, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, will be available on Xbox One and PC (along with its Game Pass subscription service). 

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Mortal Kombat 11 might add Spawn as playable character

2017 Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con

Mortal Kombat 11 added a little visceral action to last week’s Game Awards 2018, and we might already know about one of the guest fighters.

Spawn creator and comic book legend Todd McFarlane suggested that the character might be coming to the fighting game when a fan asked him about it during a Reddit AMA on Thursday.

‘I believe he’s on his way… ‘ McFarlane replied.

Spawn is a CIA agent who’s betrayed by his allies and wakes up in hell after his death, then gives up his soul to return as a gloriously ’90s demonic being.

He’d certainly fit the franchise, which is so violent that the 1992 original led to Congressional hearings on video games. The last entry in the series, 2016’s Mortal Kombat X, included Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, a Predator, a Xenomorph from Alien and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as guests.

 

2017 Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con

Spawn was previously a playable guest character in the Xbox version of 2003’s Soul Calibur 2.

Jamie Foxx is set to play the antihero in an upcoming movie reboot, McFarlane’s directorial debut — which could make for a nice cross-promotion with Mortal Kombat 11. Previously, the character has appeared in an animated series and a 1997 live-action film starring Michael Jai White.

We don’t know when the new movie will be out, but Mortal Kombat 11 wants you to get over here on April 23 when it hits PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.

Neither developer NetherRealm Studios nor McFarlane immediately responded to requests for comment.

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Fortnite challenges week 8: How to search between a hatch, a rock lady and a flatbed

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The Ice King event last Saturday completely covered the Fortnite: Battle Royale island in snow. It’s been a little disorienting getting used to there being snow everywhere, but I think it’s cool that Epic Games went all-in to give the game a proper winter. One advantage to all the snow is that the new Sneaky Snowman drop in the latest update will fit right in just about anywhere on the map. 

But regardless of the weather on the island, if you want to get that tier-100 Ice King, you’re going to need to continue to complete challenges. I’ve put together some maps and tips for each challenge to help you level up your Battle Pass so you can unlock more loot. 

If you’re not done with last week, check out the season 7, week 7 challenges guide.

s7w8challenges

Free

  • Place a Cozy Campfire or Launch Pad in different matches (0/3)
  • Build structures (0/250)
  • Search between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady and a precarious flatbed (0/1) – Hard

Battle pass

  • Stage 1: Visit Paradise Palms and Salty Springs in a single match (0/1)
  • Search chests at Shifty Shafts or Lonely Lodge (0/7)
  • Deal damage to opponents while riding in a vehicle (0/100)
  • Explosive weapon eliminations (0/3) – Hard

How to place a Cozy Campfire or a Launch Pad in different matches

The biggest challenge in this one is finding the items in the first place. Instead of trying to rush it, just make sure that whenever you get either a Cozy Campfire or Launch Pad over the course of the week to place it right away. As long as you’re mindful, it shouldn’t take too long to place three.

How to build structures

You’ll have this one done in no time flat if you’re a regular builder and even if you aren’t, it won’t take much to get 250 points. This will probably be a challenge you’ll naturally get done over the course of the week so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

How to search between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady and a precarious flatbed

Search-between quests are always fun (because I like making the maps), but if you want to skip seeking out the locations yourself, here’s where to find your Battle Stars:

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How to do stage 1: Visit Paradise Palms and Salty Springs in a single match 

The first and second stages of this challenge should be pretty easy, because in stage 1, Paradise Palms and Salty Springs are pretty close together and that’s also true for stage 2 with Junk Junction and Loot Lake. But stage 3 might be a little more of a challenge. 

Going from Haunted Hills to Wailing Woods is the longest distance I’ve seen in the Fortnite challenges, so you’ll have to count on a good bus path, then make the journey across the map. Your other option is to grab an X4-Stormwing — because you need only cross through the airspace of the locations to get credit, it could be the best way to go.

fortnite-threepairsweek8

How to search chests at Shifty Shafts or Lonely Lodge

This challenge is pretty obvious and there are tons of chests to be found at either location. Just watch out early in the week because there will be a lot of people competing to complete this challenge. If you want to stay out of the crossfire, just wait a couple days before trying to complete this one.

How to deal damage to opponents while riding in a vehicle

Here’s a challenge we haven’t seen before. It might be pretty hard to complete if you don’t usually play duo or squad game modes. The trick here is that you need to be riding as a passenger on any of the vehicles and deal damage to opponents. Fortunately, you don’t have to get eliminations. The best way to do this one is to get a buddy and take turns driving and riding shotgun (literally). It shouldn’t take long at all to get the 100 points of damage.

How to get explosive weapon eliminations

With the quad rocket launcher back in the vault after the latest update, this challenge might be a little harder, but there are plenty of explosive weapons left for you to use in this challenge. I would suggest going into a large team game mode and trying to fire rockets into where the most people are concentrated towards the end of the match. You only need three kills, so just make sure to switch to explosive weapons when you have them to complete this challenge fast.

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Razer’s tiny new headset means no more Princess Leia buns for game streamers

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Want a headset that doesn’t make your head look twice as big?

Razer recently announced the Razer Ifrit, which is a low-profile headset that combines in-ear headphones with an adjustable condenser microphone. Because of its small footprint, the Razer Ifrit is geared toward streamers who want to show off their face while recording. But it’s also an option for anyone who wants a headphone/microphone combo that doesn’t completely take over their face.

The lightweight gaming headset trend seems to be catching on among manufacturers. MadCatz showed off its own tiny headset at CES, and there are plenty of others on Amazon (like this one and this one).

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The Razer Ifrit comes with a 3.5mm audio jack, but you can also connect it through USB with the Razer USB Audio Enhancer. That means you can connect it to your PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation and many other devices.

The Ifrit is available now on the Razer website. It costs $100/£100/AU$170. The Razer USB Audio Enhancer is included with the Razer Ifrit, but you can also buy it separately for $20//£20/AU$35.

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