Microsoft RoomAlive

Got a Kinect, a projector and a knack for code? If so, you can create a Star Trek-like holodeck in your living room. Microsoft has released the RoomAlive Toolkit, a software framework that lets you string together Kinect motion trackers to create interactive projection maps. You can use it to build anything from extra-immersive games through to art displays. This isn't exactly a trivial undertaking (Microsoft is promising lots of tutorials), but it means that you won't have to wait for someone else to bring your augmented reality dreams to life.

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Emojis are starting to flood Instagram, and the website's engineers are on a quest to sort out how people are using the yellow-faced emoticons. Apparently, their popularity skyrocketed after Apple released the iOS emoji keyboard and Android got native support. In just a single month after the iOS emojis came out, their usage on the website increased by 10 percent. Now, nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments have an emoji or two. Instagram's research has also revealed that folks in Finland insert emojis most frequently, with 63 percent of all text posted from the country containing at least one graphic. The US (38 percent) takes the ninth place in that list, after France (50 percent), UK (48 percent), Germany (47 percent), Italy (45 percent), Russia (45 percent), Spain (40 percent) and Japan (39 percent).

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Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Demonstrates Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

Rumors Microsoft would dump its Media Center feature have plagued the project for years -- in 2007 we worried if it still had a future, after it was largely pushed aside in Windows Vista -- and the company confirmed to ZDNet this week that with the launch of Windows 10, it's actually happening. While Media Center came to Windows 8 as an add-on and unchanged from previous versions, apparently "infinitesimal" usage statistics are the reason Microsoft is finally pulling the plug. Nearly ten years ago, the launch of the Xbox 360 suggested Media Center Edition had a bright future and a place in the living room. While the console went on to sell millions, HTPCs became an ignored and restricted niche for Microsoft, a missed opportunity after its hyped 2004 launch with Bill Gates and Queen Latifah.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at Microsoft's annual "Build" conference in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. While Microsoft has already previewed some aspects of the new Windows 10, a parade of top executives will use the conference to demonstrate more software features and app-building tools, with an emphasis on mobile devices as well as PCs. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Referencing former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's infamous "developers!" chant is practically a cliché nowadays, but it felt like the silent refrain throughout the company's entire Build conference this week. In the run-up to Windows 10, Microsoft wants developers. It needs developers. And it will do whatever it takes to get them -- even going so far as to allow devs to recompile their Android and iOS apps without much fuss. None of this seemed possible from Microsoft years ago, when simply owning the dominant desktop platform was enough. But now with mobile devices and the cloud in play, Microsoft needs to evolve. And by doing so, it's also making Windows 10 a far more exciting upgrade than Windows 8 ever hoped to be.

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Our ability to drive innovation through creative visualization has helped us explore the reaches of space, put powerful computers into our pockets and design some bad-ass car concepts. There's always been a seed of futurism in automobiles: Manufacturers and hobbyists alike have been crafting unique vehicles for decades, sometimes to test out fresh, new tech and other times to indulge in space-age fantasies. Below, we explore some of the more notable concept cars that have been created over the years, from the utilitarian to the fantastic.

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Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

1st Apple Macintosh (Mac) 128K computer, released january 24, 1984 by Steve Jobs

Apple Won't Always Rule. Just Look at IBM.
by Jeff Sommer
The New York Times

Apple's growth is staggering. It's also unsustainable... just ask IBM. The folks in Cupertino may still have room to expand the company's reach, but there are some signs that the ceiling may be approaching. Of course, IBM, a company that was once on top, is doing great work, but its market cap is estimated to be less than a quarter of Apple's.

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Landing airplane

Whoever said "it's the journey, not the destination" obviously lived in a time before air travel. But maybe, just maybe, the Department of Transportation's implementation of the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), the "backbone" of the NextGen air-traffic system, could change how we feel about getting on a flight. There are a few things making up ERAM: performance based navigation, automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) and data comm.

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According to a new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, there's a breed of supermassive black holes out there a lot more ravenous than usual. Supermassive black holes are found in the middle of galaxies, measuring millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun. Some of them actively consume gas and dust, which form a "disc" around the mass -- as matter from that disc fall into the black hole, a jet of particles stream out, appearing as cloudy streaks. These are called quasar black holes, and they usually shine more brightly than the galaxy itself, since that disc radiates huge amounts of energy. The ones discovered by Bin Luo and his team of astronomers, however, "[dine] at enormous rates, at least five to ten times faster than typical quasars."

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A Nordstrom store

Store pickups give you the luxury of shopping online without waiting days for deliveries, but there's still one big hassle involved: you have to, y'know, enter the store. That won't be a problem if Nordstrom's latest experiment pans out. Several of the retail chain's locations (including its Seattle flagship) are testing an option that lets you pick up an internet order while staying in your car. All you do is call or text when you're near the shop, and a staffer will wait for you outside. There's no word on whether or not Nordstrom will expand the streetside option, but here's hoping that it does. This would not only save you time picking up a new wardrobe when you're in a rush, but spare you from hunting for that elusive downtown parking spot.

[Image credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

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Grand Theft Auto V has a few mobile apps of its own, but one enterprising modder has taken the idea to its natural conclusion: an application that lets you control the in-game cellphone with an iPhone. With the application you can scroll through text messages on-screen, peep your current list of objectives and, among other things, even control the in-game phone's camera. The YouTube video's description (spotted by former Joystiq'r Dave Hinkle) does't offer much by way of details other than it's running on an Arduino Leonardo with an Ethernet shield connected to a PC, sadly.

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