Google brought virtual reality to the masses cheaply with Cardboard, a DIY headset announced at last year's I/O conference. Now, the search giant's building upon its 1 million VR viewers with an improved Cardboard headset that fits smartphone screens up to 6 inches. It also incorporates a new top-mounted button that replaces the finicky magnetic ring so that Cardboard works with any phone. And, in what's probably the most consumer-friendly move Google's made with the new and improved Cardboard, it takes just three steps to assemble. Clay Bavor, VP of Product, told I/O attendees that they'd be receiving these new DIY VR kits immediately after the keynote. And for interested VR developers, it's important to note the Cardboard SDK now works with iOS in addition to Android.

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Neon green and red lights flash as Batman maneuvers the Batmobile through loop de loops in a gaudy underground racetrack. On the streets of Gotham, giant, bulbous tanks strafe around each other shooting at the speeding Bat-vehicle as it tries to escape. Onscreen, a computer-animated Alfred appears and gets snippy with master Bruce.

This is a description of the things I did in a demo of Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Knight, due out this June on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. And if any of the above sounds a whole hell of a lot like the camp film Batman & Robin, well, that's because it's eerily similar. If you were a fan of that Joel Schumacher-directed 1997 nipple fest or the open-world distractions of the 2011 video game Arkham City, then that gameplay might sound pretty awesome. But for a fan of Batman: Arkham Asylum like myself, however, this sample of Arkham Knight was disconcerting.

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Like any Mad Max fan thrilled by the film Fury Road, I approached Avalanche Studios' new video game translation hoping to find echoes of the film's anarchic spirit. And while the full game may deliver -- we won't know until review time -- the current demo feels more like a mundane snapshot of Max's offscreen life in that post-apocalyptic world than an adrenaline shot from Fury Road. Mad Max, due out this fall for PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One, just doesn't have the same level of enervating detail.

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VR turned me into a movie character -- a tiny, bright yellow firefly. But here's the best part: I got to experience it with someone next to me, both literally and virtually, in a dark room with headsets strapped to our heads. For Oculus Story Studio, arguably the Pixar of virtual reality, this is the first step in making the medium more social. And it's using its short film Lost, introduced earlier this year at Sundance, as a test bed. Still, whether we're talking about a cute movie or a fun game, most VR activities so far have one thing in common: They're solitary experiences. Oculus wants to change that.

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In the early '90s, four odd-looking arcade games appeared at a rented-out store in my local mall. For about seven dollars, anyone could stop in and play three minutes of a new virtual reality game called Dactyl Nightmare. I paid up, put on the massive helmet... and then the game was over before I'd even figured out what I was doing in the blocky, chessboard-like environment. The whole experience left a lot to be desired and I never went back. It certainly wasn't the first VR experience (or the most advanced) made available for public consumption, but it sums up how many felt about the ill-fated, first wave of consumer-facing VR projects: all hype and not enough substance. The times and technology have changed, though, and it's finally time for round two. VR systems are being developed and promoted at a rate that outstrips the previous era, with better graphics and games (and far less queasiness) than ever before. VR, it seems, is just about ready for prime time. So to commemorate its second coming, let's take a look at virtual reality's bumpy road to mainstream recognition.

[Image: AP Photo/Mark Cowan]

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The hockey game on the flat-screen behind the bar had served as a pleasant background visual as I ate dinner. But with my plate cleared, the action on-screen drew my full attention. I took a sip of beer as players converged on the puck, white jerseys sliding into red and sticks slapping intently over a small, swift black dot. More furious movement and some of the athletes fell back as others rushed forward chasing their objective: Control the puck. I took another sip. Two men, one from each team, flew toward the black dot as it slid across the bottom wall of the rink and the rest of the players settled into position behind them, constantly moving, pushing for dominance of their immediate areas. Each person on the ice clearly had a specific role. And then halfway through my second beer, it clicked. "It's like they're playing League of Legends in real-life," I thought, frozen in mid-sip. "Holy shit. I think I understand hockey now."

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Spend enough time on social media and you're bound to make a mistake that'll piss a few people off. It's pretty much inevitable. That's what the free indie "game" #notifications is all about. It begins the way many of us start our day: lying in bed, checking Twitter ("Twiddler" in this case) on a smartphone. There's a single eponymous notification for you at this point: a favorite on a tweet from the night before reading, "Tomorrow's going to be good, I can feel it!" That was incredibly short-lived.

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All kinds of personal-sized, eco-minded rides have been popping up on the market ready to propel us through the streets. Whether it's for a quick commute or a casual cruise, these electric rideables help save time and fossil fuels. Not only do they get you from point A to point B quickly, but they're also fun to ride... and you won't sweat up a storm along the way. But which one is right for you? Below, we take a look at all the bikes, scooters, skateboards and everything else in between to serve up some useful personal transport suggestions. You never know, there might be a pair of RocketSkates in your future.

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We've all been there. You sit slack-jawed swiping and swiping past dozens of movies you've seen/want to see/added to your queue all in the hopes of selecting one to watch. But that doesn't happen. Your friend is late to meet you at the bar, so you swipe and swipe and swipe down your Twitter and Facebook feeds to refresh and stop to open a new video link every now and then, pausing only to look up and remember which world's the real one. You're on line at Walgreens and people ahead of you are taking their sweet time and talking over their purchases and you don't even care because Amy Schumer just released a new video and the only thing that matters is that you've watched it all before it's your turn at the checkout. And it's nighttime and you're in bed, but you can't sleep because the FOMO is real and what if something's happened and people are talking about it. So you take out your phone from under your pillow and its cool glow illuminates the dark of your room and now everything's okay because you're swiping. You're swiping and watching.

This boy is you.

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There's so much power packed into tiny action cams today, that it's easier than ever to embed them in your everyday life, often with wild results. Heck, a daily commute in New York is rife with enough craziness worth capturing. Whatever your adventure, Sony's new Action Cam is up to the task pulling in 4K footage at 100mbps for smooth results. It packs the necessary splash-proofing and Steady Shot Image Stabilization to handle rough rides, offers 170-degree ultra-wide angle views and includes GPS data so you can trace the journey. Film makers have been testing the boundaries of its performance at Sony's Never Before Seen page if you're curious, but one lucky Engadget reader this week will soon be able add their own story to the mix. Sony has given us one of its 4K Action Cams along with a 64GB microSDXC card to store all that new footage. As always, just head on down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning.

Winner: congratulations to Frank D. of Ocala, FL!

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You may have done the spring clean around the house, but have you organized your digital media, too? Installing the Plex Media Server software can help centralize all your scattered music, movie and photo files into one place and serve them up wherever you go. You can access that content using the Plex app, which is available for mobile, smart TVs, set top boxes, streaming devices and game consoles, and it's easy to share with friends, too. To help one lucky Engadget reader enjoy the full Plex experience this week, the company has provided an Xbox One and a Chromecast, along with a Lifetime Plex Pass for total access and premium features. There's also a $100 Amazon music gift card in the prize bundle to celebrate the recent update of Plex Music. Gracenote and Vevo are onboard to help build automatic playlists, provide mood-based soundtracks, match your collection with over 140,000 music videos and deliver extra helpings of metadata. Just head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to two chances at winning this powerful multi-media package.

Winner: congratulations to Brian W. of Mammoth Lakes, CA!

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It was 20 years ago today that Sega released the Sega Saturn, the US video game industry's first and only surprise console release. Tom Kalinske, Sega of America's CEO at the time, walked out onstage at E3 and announced to a theater full of game publishers, journalists and store owners that its new console was available right now for a whopping $400. If that seems like an insane business plan, it was; Saturn was so rushed to market that its scant few games didn't even have titles printed on their case's spines. Expensive and difficult to developer for, it was quickly buried by the popularity of Sony's PlayStation. The sad truth is that while the Saturn wasn't a hit here in the US, it actually enjoyed a healthy following in Japan thanks to an abundance of excellent games that only made it out in that region. Here are seven curios for Sega's maligned machine that make it a must for fans of the obscure.

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'No Pineapple Left Behind' and the politics of American education

Seth Alter was a teacher for all of six months before quitting his job and going indie to make video games full-time. No Pineapple Left Behind, his second PC title, is more or less the story of why he left his students at a Boston charter school. As a special education math teacher, his sixth graders were expected to meet the same behavioral standards and educational expectations as their mainstreamed counterparts thanks to 2001's controversial No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which ties school funding to standardized test scores. Alter says that teacher evaluations are drawn from those scores as well. And because most charter schools are non-union, they can fire teachers for almost any reason, including low test scores from special-needs students who should have been held to modified standards in the first place. It doesn't take a genius to realize just how flawed that logic is: It's a system built to fail.

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Tim Dunn and Nate Coppard are on a mission to rewire your brain. They're respectively the senior producer and senior designer behind Guitar Hero Live's new six-button guitar, and while neurological change is not their direct goal, it's a side effect they seem to relish. The new guitar has two rows of three buttons each, stacked on top of each other at the end of the neck -- this not only adds an extra button to the series, but it allows for fresh challenges. "It's not something people will be familiar with," Dunn says, glancing down at the Guitar Hero Live guitar in his hands. He taps some of the buttons. "It's a new thing."

Seated next to Dunn, Coopard adds, "We've had a lot of people saying they can feel their brains kind of adjusting and kind of rewiring to the new way of playing it as they play through the songs, and then gradually getting to grips with how the difficulty ramps up as you jump around between the two layers."

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BOXBOY! did not hit the 3DS with the fanfare it deserved this spring. It's a brand-new game, with brand-new characters and it's published by Nintendo. Which is precisely the sort of thing the company's greatest detractors claim it's missing. Then again, even though the funny, little puzzle game is ingenious and addictive, it's also as quiet and unassuming as the studio that made it: HAL Laboratory.

Much like BOXBOY!, HAL does not have the reputation it should. For 35 years, the first-party Nintendo studio's pumped out games that are deeply traditional while remaining deeply experimental. The Kirby franchise, HAL's signature work, has been both a major sales success with more than 30 million games sold and a hotbed for creativity (as in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse) and old-school style (a la Kirby: Triple Deluxe.) That little pink puff Kirby tends to dominate HAL's output, which is what makes an original like BOXBOY! so exciting. So to get some deeper insight into the creation of this new Nintendo IP, I interviewed Yasuhiro Mukae, the director of HAL's first original in five years, via a translator through email. We discussed HAL's creative process, the secret to making expressive characters and what it's like making games at one of gaming's most consistent, if underappreciated, studios.

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