Unity 5.6 Beta Supports Vulkan API

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 11:54 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity, vulkan

One of the most popular video game engines, Unity, has released a beta for Unity 5.6, which will be the last version of Unity 5.x. This release pushes Vulkan into full support on both desktop and mobile, which actually beats Unreal Engine 4 on the desktop side of things. Specifically, Vulkan is available for the Android, Windows, Linux, and Tizen operating systems. Apple users should be happy that this version also updates Metal for iOS and macOS, but Apple is still preventing vendors from shipping Vulkan drivers so you really shouldn’t feel too happy.

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At Unity’s Unity 2016 keynote, the company claimed about 30-60% better performance on the new API “out-of-the-box”. I do find this statement slightly odd, though, because Unity doesn’t really provide much access to “the box” without expensive source code up-sells. The most user involvement of the engine internals, for what I would assume is the majority of projects, is buying and activating a plug-in, and Vulkan would be kind-of crappy to hide behind a pay wall.

I mentioned that this will be the last Unity 5.x version. While the difference between a major and a minor version number tends to be just marketing these days, Unity is changing their major version to align with the year that it belongs to. Expect future versions, starting with a beta version in April, to be numbered 2017.x.

Unity 5.6 comes out of beta in March.

Source: Unity

Enderel, the total Skyrim conversion, is to get an expansion

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, Enderal, mod. expansion, gaming

If you have yet to try out the total conversion mod for Skyrim, Enderal: The Shards of Order you are missing out.  A world not quite as large as Skyrim but every bit as beautiful and full of lore is yours for free, all you need is Skyrim.  The skill trees are very different, paths are unlocked by meditation after levelling and they have added new balance to the game to prevent you from becoming easily overpowered by wandering around and bashing low level monsters.  In order to increase main skills like One Handed Weapons or secondary skills like Lockpicking, you need to purchase a training book in order to use the points gained from levelling, and they become very expensive.

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have been informed that the lead writer of Enderal, Nicolas Samuel and a few helpers, will be creating an expansion to the game, adding new quests and subplots.  Check out the mood trailer below.

"SureAI’s huge Skyrim total conversion Enderal: The Shards of Order [official site], which builds a whole new game upon Bethesda’s foundations, is getting an expansion of its own in 2017."

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Learn about the tech in Vive's Lighthouse

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, Lighthouse, alan yates

Curious about the tech behind Valve's Lighthouse room-scale VR positioning system for the HTC Vive?  Learn about it from Alan Yates, one of the leads on the project at Valve over at Hack a Day in a 40 minute video.  He discusses the various attempts at finding a way to make the positioning system work, from failed bearings to the eventual discovery of the optimal thickness for the mirror. If you can't wait for the second generation of Lighthouse, he also provides you with a way to get your hands on an ASIC on a breakout board which will help you build your own version.

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"[Alan Yates] is a hacker’s engineer. His job at Valve has been to help them figure out the hardware that makes virtual reality (VR) a real reality. And he invented a device that’s clever enough that it really should work, but difficult enough that it wasn’t straightforward how to make it work."

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Source: Hack a Day

Crytek Closing Multiple Studios in Downsizing Restructure

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 09:58 PM |
Tagged: crytek

While they developed very interesting technology and franchises, Crytek has been struggling with finances over the last few years. Until today, the software developer has been operating out of seven studios throughout Europe and Asia. Today, they announced that five of these (Budapest, Hungary; Sofia, Bulgaria; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; and Istanbul, Turkey) will shut down, leaving Frankfurt, Germany and Kiev, Ukraine as the only two up and running.

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The press release includes a quote from the co-founder, Avni Yerli, that I found interesting:

Undergoing such transitions is far from easy, and we’d like to sincerely thank each and every staff member – past and present – for their hard work and commitment to Crytek. These changes are part of the essential steps we are taking to ensure Crytek is a healthy and sustainable business moving forward that can continue to attract and nurture our industry’s top talent. The reasons for this have been communicated internally along the way. Our focus now lies entirely on the core strengths that have always defined Crytek – world-class developers, state-of-the-art technology and innovative game development, and we believe that going through this challenging process will make us a more agile, viable, and attractive studio, primed for future success.

Specifically, the “attractive” adjective assigned to his studio. I can think of two reasons why this word would be used, each with very different connotations. It’s possible that this words is used to reassure talented engineers that would, if it wasn’t for these concerns, consider working at the company. It’s also possible that they are trying to telegraph to the world that they are interested in being acquired.

Still, this is definitely a tough time for many employees and former-employees of Crytek. I don't want to layer too much analysis over this.

Source: Crytek

Roccat's Suora mechanical keyboard, dressed up for a rave

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: input, suora fx, mechanical keyboard, roccat, RGB, cherry mx blue

The Suora FX matches the original Roccat Suora design, only thoroughly infected with RGB disease.  The keyboard sent to Benchmark Reviews sported Cherry MX Blue switches, with the obvious addition of LED lights underneath the keys.  They found the Swarm Gaming software which comes with the keyboard to let you program lighting effects and macros to be somewhat simpler in design that the competitions.  This could be a good thing if you are not looking to program intricate lighting effects, but might disappoint those that plan to.  Drop by for the full review here.

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"Without sacrificing functionality, the Suora FX maintains the same frameless design seen on its predecessor, the original Suora. This keyboard does not have any of the extra gimmicky bells and whistles seen on other mechanical gaming keyboards. Instead, the Suora FX gets directly down to the point to provide the user with functionality without compromising gaming performance."

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Hack inflight entertainment crashes planes! Ya, not so much ya nutter

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: security, fud

You will probably see a headline picked up from the Telegraph warning of how hackers can use the in-flight entertainment systems to cause planes to crash; please ignore it.  Pilots do not generally log into a secret part of the interface on your setback screen to control the airplane, they have a separate system which is not about to be overridden by someone screwing with that system.  On the other hand they could force everyone to watch a Rob Schneider movie, which might be worse.  The Inquirer also suggests playing with cabin lighting or broadcasting fake announcements, as annoying as the teenager chatting away on the phone next to you or the child screaming in the background.  There were some reasonable suggestions in the article, which you can see here.

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"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS YOUR PILOT SPEAKING. It turns out that hackers may be able to fiddle with the in-flight entertainment system on board and take control of the plane."

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Source: The Inquirer

5G might be a hard cell

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 19, 2016 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: 5G, cell phones, predictions

At least one expert is predicting that the roll out of 5G mobile service will either be delayed or poorly implemented.  Over at The Register Professor William Webb offers his insight as to why this will be.  He predicts that the physical upgrading or replacing of existing signal stations from 4G to 5G will be significantly more expensive than the upgrade to 4G was and that a hybrid option will result in an insignificant increase in network speeds.  He also suggests that total mobile data usage is starting to plateau and we may not even need this extra bandwidth.  That is a contentious claim, with mobile usage seemingly increasing thanks to more and more streaming apps and the ever expanding market of mobile users.  Any slowdown in total usage could instead be caused by pricing, many simply can't afford the overage charges incurred by heavy data usage but would gleefully slurp up more the moment their data caps increase.

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"THE 5G WIRELESS VISION is flawed because technological advances are insufficient to deliver it, users won't pay extra for the higher data rates and don't need the greater capacity it is expected to provide - and because mobile operators can't afford to implement it anyway."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fatal1ty, you Monster! The FXM 200 gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 10:49 PM |
Tagged: fatal1ty, monster, FXM 200, gaming headset, audio

Ah Monster, forever famous for their cable pricing.  Surprisingly the Fatal1ty FXM 200 gaming headset is a mere $95, an amazing value as they feature both Hex720 Sound Chamber Technology and Game-tuned Pure Monster Sound!  Surprisingly, The Tech Report were impressed with the quality of gaming audio which came out of this headset and had no reservations in recommending it for gamers, either single player or online.  However that quality did not extend to listening to music, as the quality of audio suffered greatly when listening to various tracks.  This does make sense as Fatal1ty products are made for gamers, not audiophiles.  Drop by for a look at their full review here.

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"Famed gamer Fatal1ty has joined up with Monster to produce a pair of signature headsets: the FXM 100 and FXM 200. We put the FXM 200 to the test to see whether its performance lives up to that fabled name."

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Stop paying the ransomware you idiots! You get nothing back and encourage them to continue!

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, security, idiots, backup

To anyone working in the field, it will come as no surprise that almost half of the 1600 businesses and consumers in the survey quoted at The Inquirer have been the victim of a ransomware attack.  What will come as a disappointment to you is that 70% of those who were infected paid the the ransom, 25% of them between $20,000 to $40,000.  Shockingly the majority of those who paid the ransom got nothing back; after all how could someone who makes money by purposefully infecting machines not honour their word?

If you are infected with ransomware you have lost the data, pure and simple.  Reimage and move on, this is why you have backups.  It is painful and frustrating but if you pay the bitcoins you are not going to get anything back and are encouraging them to continue by making this a lucrative business.  Just as it is with spam, it takes only a tiny percentage to fall for it to make it profitable.  Go and back your stuff up, twice.  If you need a stocking stuffer for someone get them an external drive or a subscription to an online backup service, look into CryptoDrop or a similar program.  Just don't give them bitcoins

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"The report suggested that as many as 46 per cent of the respondents had been affected by ransomware and that 70 per cent of these had admitted to paying the ransom, contrary to the advice of law enforcement agencies."

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Source: The Register

Drabby Lake has sprung a leak, so to the Intel 200 series chipset

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 15, 2016 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: leak, kaby lake, intel 200

Tech ARP have an interesting story posted today, it would seem they pried the specs of the upcoming Kaby Lake processors and accompanying Intel 200 chipset.  The top chip, the $349 Core i7-7700K will have 4 cores and 8 threads running at 4.2 GHz, with an 8 MB L3 cache and a TDP of 95W while the non-K version will have it core clock dropped to 3.6GHz, TDP dropped to 65W and price lowered to $309.  The chipsets will encompass series similar to the previous generations from Intel, including the LGA 1151 Z270, H270, Q270, B250 and Q250 series.  There is no information on the socket the server level C422 and high end X299 boards will use in this leak, but we are sure you can extrapolate from existing rumours and innuendo.  Follow that link for the entire lineup.

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"As AMD gears up to launch the AMD Ryzen desktop processor in early Q1 2017, Intel has finalised the launch plans for their desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the accompanying 200 Series chipsets.

Although Intel has been extremely secretive, we managed to obtain the specifications and launch details of the desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the 200 Series chipsets. Check it out!"

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Source: TechARP

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 376.33 Drivers

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

While they’re not really promoting this release, such as with a blog post on the GeForce website, NVIDIA has just released their 376.33 WHQL drivers. This one is not associated with any specific game release, so it seems like this is more of a maintenance release, working on bugs rather than application-dependent optimizations. The release notes specifically mention several security improvements, so I would assume they’re going back through previous changes and looking at things like video memory management, which might also lead to overall performance and stability enhancements.

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As for the long-running Folding@Home bug affecting some of our readers, it turns out that the cause was a bug in the application that just happened to work until NVIDIA applied a fix on their end. This reminds me of when I was working on an OpenCL-based software renderer. At one point, I started crashing when executing on the Intel CPU, but not on either GPU (Intel HD 4600 or NVIDIA GTX 670). I later found out that it was an out-of-bounds access in my code, when a render group slightly bled off the side of the render buffer, which the GPU drivers silently compensated for. It looked like Intel’s CPU driver had a bug, but, really, it was just the only one that didn’t work around my bug.

Despite this, NVIDIA is planning on releasing a workaround for Folding@Home in a hotfix driver, until the organization can patch the issue on their own. This driver is not the one, though.

Source: NVIDIA

Who's a pretty Dog? Watch what the graphics settings do to image quality

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, watch dogs 2

[H]ard|OCP have already gone through the highest quality video settings in Watch Dogs 2 which are still playable at a reasonable frame rate, now they are investigating how these settings actually effect the visual quality. The High Resolution Texture Pack does indeed make a difference to the world, much like it did in Skyrim but how do the two NVIDIA only  shadow options differ from the Ultra setting?   The Extra Details slider seems to be a renamed draw distance slider with the effect you would expect and there is a long look at the variety of AA options offered.  If you are curious which of these options most appeal to you, take a long look.

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"In Part 3 of our Watch Dog 2 series we focus on the image quality aspects of this game. We will compare high resolution textures, shadows, ambient occlusion, extra details slider and AA. If you are curious what those features look like, how they compare between quality levels, this article will give you an idea what to expect."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Roll out the gifts this season, mobility for all

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 05:31 PM |
Tagged: holiday gift guide

You want tablets and chromebooks and laptops and cellphones, Shields and Yogas and iPads and Pixels; but can you recall a shopping list which has them all?  Try out The Tech Report's gift guide, for it has many shiny things and if you want Google's Pixel you will even find it shows ...

Anyways, they have put together a list of dozens of their favourite mobile products from this year, all of which will be familiar but it is nice to have a compendium of the vast amount of products which were released in 2016; apart from that one hot item.

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"In this edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, we dig ourselves out of the snow to bring you the latest and best in tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, and phones."

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Zalman's ZM-K900M mechanical keyboard can be taught to do more than change colours

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 07:53 PM |
Tagged: zalman, ZM-K900M, input, mechanical keyboard, Kailh Blue RGB

Not only does Zalman's ZM-K900M suffer from RGB disease underneath it's Kailh switches, it also has a split personality.  When you look at the closeups of the keys over at The Tech Report you will see odd symbols and messages under the usual lettering, things like ZM2 or Speed Meter.  Those are for programming macros, simply hitting Fn + ZM# starts the recording and it will capture every click, including buttons which emulate mouse buttons and stop once you press Fn + ZM# again.   These will play back exactly as recorded and the somewhat misspelled Speed Meter allows you to increase or decrease the speed which it plays back.  If you find this intriguing, pop by The Tech Report for a closer look.

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"Zalman's ZM-K900M keyboard hides a huge range of hardware-controlled backlight and macro modes underneath an unassuming exterior. We took it for a spin to see whether this RGB LED-backlit mechanical marvel stands out in an increasingly jam-packed keyboard market."

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"HTML5 by Default" Rolling in to Chrome Userbase

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome, Adobe, flash

Google is about to begin transitioning their users away from Flash, unless they explicitly enable it on a site-by-site basis. This is a step beyond click-to-activate, which refuses to activate the plug-in until the user permits it, that will not even acknowledge the plug-in’s existence unless the user requests it. The difference is that this tells sites to treat the browser as not having Flash, which, for PC Perspective as an example, should load our HTML5 article carousel instead of presenting a click-to-activate Flash one that has an expanding oval transition animation.

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Because changes like these could have side-effects, Google is dipping their toe before jumping in. About 1% of users on the current Chrome 55 (and ~50% of Chrome 56 pre-release users) will have this change flipped on any day now, which contains the outrage if it breaks something popular or, otherwise, causes user grief. If it all goes well, though, it will be enabled for everyone when Chrome 56 arrives for the general public in February.

Source: Google

Flash news: Demand up, supply down ... outcome obvious

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: 3d nand, price increase, nand

DRAMeXchange is predicting a price hike in NAND chips over the coming year thanks to a supply decline combined with an impressive rise in demand.  The supply decline is a direct result of the industry's switch in preference to 3D NAND, which requires manufacturers to retool their existing lines.  While retooling from the production of 2D to 3D NAND, the line can produce neither and as all available lines were currently at or near full volume production, we are seeing a decline in the amount of available flash chips.  Even once lines are retooled, only Samsung has seen an increase in their production volumes, a situation which will hopefully change in the coming year.  With demand on the rise as more and more users switch to SSDs and the amount of storage on cellphones increasing in each new model we can only expect to see prices rise.  DigiTimes reports a predicted 10% rise in average SSD prices in Q1 of 2017, with prices of eMMC and UFS storage jumping even more.

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"From the supply side, the industry-wide transition to 3D-NAND is now moving at full speed," said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. "However, most suppliers with the exception of Samsung have not improve their yield rates for the technology as quickly as they would like."

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Source: DigiTimes

/Noclip Publishes Documentary on DOOM

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 01:26 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, doom, Doom 4, id software, bethesda, zenimax, noclip

Danny O’Dwier and his company, Noclip, publishes behind-the-scenes documentaries of entities in the video game industry. Their first handful of videos, published piece-by-piece over a few weeks in October and November, were about Rocket League. The series is funded by fan donations on Patreon, which is currently at $20,547 USD per month.

This one is about id Software, and, specifically, the recently-released DOOM and the canceled DOOM 4. They were surprisingly open and honest about internal struggles and design issues regarding “Doom 4 1.0”. It even contains quite a bit of footage from the cut content, which is a step above and beyond just merely acknowledging and discussing these problems. Of course, they mentioned that Bethesda and Zenimax were supportive of the studio as it transitioned in multiple, simultaneous ways.

If you’re interested in DOOM, this will be a well-spent half hour.

Source: /Noclip

NVIDIA GeForce GTX, HTC VIVE Bundle Deal at GeForce.com

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 12, 2016 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: gaming, nvidia, geforce, htc vive, VR, game bundle

AMD's RX 480 and Fury X are capable of providing decent performance in VR applications and will save you some money for the VR headset, dongles and games.  However NVIDIA upped the ante today, giving away three games to anyone who purchases a GTX 1080, 1070 or 1060 and an HTC Vive. 

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The giveaway encompasses more than North America, as long as you can purchase the bundle from either Microsoft or NewEgg where you happen to live you should be able to get your three free games.  They are redeemable on Steam and should be available immediately, a peek at Sports Bar VR is below.

 

Source: NVIDIA

PCPer Live! AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive Discussion and RX 480 Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 12, 2016 - 05:56 PM |
Tagged: video, relive, radeon software, radeon, live stream, live, giveaway, crimson, amd

UPDATE: If you missed the live stream today, don't worry! You can catch the reply right here:

Last year, AMD and its software team dispatched some representatives to our offices to talk about the major software release that was Radeon Software Crimson Edition. As most of you probably saw last week, AMD launched the Crimson ReLive driver and we are pleased to let you know that we will again be hosting a live stream with our friends at AMD! Come learn about the development of this new driver, how the new features work and insight on what might be coming in the future from AMD's software team.

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And what's a live stream without prizes? AMD has stepped up to the plate to offer up some awesome hardware for those of you that tune in to watch the live stream! 

  • 3 x AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Cards

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AMD Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Live Stream and Giveaway

10am PT / 1pm ET - December 13th

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

The event will take place Tuesday, December 13th at 10am PT / 1pm ET at https://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

I will be joined by Liam Gallagher, Radeon Software Marketing Manager and Jeff Engel, Radeon Software Lead QA Manager. In short, these are two people you want to hear from and have answer your questions! (Apparently Terry Makedon will be hiding in the background as well...)

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from AMD?

So join us! Set your calendar for Tuesday at 10am PT / 1pm ET and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Someday you might be able to squeeze a last bit of life out of your cellphone

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2016 - 05:49 PM |
Tagged: feng, ferroelectric nanogenerator

The research being described in this story over at The Inquirer is somewhat different than the inductive charging that Qi provides nor the thermoelectric power generation of the MATRIX PowerWatch.  Instead they are looking at what happens to the abiltiy of a sandwich of silver, polyomide, and polypropylene ferroelectret to store energy when they are folded on themselves. Their research shows that the magnitudes of the generated voltage and current signals are doubled each time the device is folded, allowing it to power 20 LEDs when pressed.  This is a long way from powering a cellphone but an interesting branch of research which may find itself incorporated into many low voltage appliances.

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"By adding in a nano-generator, or to give it its full title, a biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator (but you can call it FENG), those swipes can be turned into tiny amounts of battery charging current instead."

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Source: The Inquirer