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Valve boss Gabe Newell hints at three VR games under development

Valve's Gabe Newell (right) and Erik Johnson discuss the company's feelings on Trump's travel ban.

The knowledge that Valve was working on a VR game was enough to get any headset fan excited. But the company’s plans for the future go well beyond that.

At a press briefing in Seattle this week, as reported by Gamasutra, company founder Gabe Newell teased what it was working on in VR right now, and shared thoughts about where he thought the tech would go in the near future. He said that he believed room-scale VR, a concept the company introduced with the help of the HTC Vive, would eventually grow into “house-scale” VR that transform a series of rooms into a VR experience.

That obviously requires positionally tracked (hopefully inside-out, unless Valve wants base stations in every room of our houses) wireless headsets, which Newell called a “solved problem”. He said wireless VR would be an “add-on” this year, likely referring to kits like TPCAST’s wireless adapter for the Vive, and that it would become an integrated feature by 2018. Could that possibly suggest there will be wireless SteamVR headsets — maybe even a second Vive — next year?

Newell also revealed that the company is actually working on not one but three full VR games. That doesn’t mean short tech demos, that means three actual games.

The SteamVR creator first confirmed that it was working on a full game for the tech at last years Steam Dev Days event, and Newell recently reconfirmed its interest in developing content for headsets.

This week, though, he said that working on both VR hardware with the Vive and software gave the company the kind of advantage that legendary Nintendo developer and Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto also benefited from.

“[Miyamoto] has had the ability to think about what the input devices & the design of systems should be like while he’s trying to design games,” Newell said. “Our sense is that that’s going to allow us to actually build much better entertainment experiences for people.”

Newell explained that these projects will also hopefully teach positive and possibly negative lessons to other developers, further describing the games as “very different.”

“Each game developer will be able to look at those and say, that was great, that was not as great,” he said. “Which is part of, from our point of view, that’s a useful charateristic of these three.”

Previously, Valve has released two VR experiences. The first, The Lab, is a free collection of minigames from the company, showcasing just what you can do with the HTC Vive and room scale VR, two technologies that are sure to be supported in the company’s new games. The second was Destinations, a sort of hub app that allows people to visit user-created worlds, either with friends or on their own. They’re both great, but they’re not the true games that Valve crafts so well.

As for if you’ll see these games only on Vive? Newell’s stance on exclusive content didn’t make it seem that way. “It’s like you’ve got people building proprietary walled gardens who say be exclusive to us and we’ll give you this bunch of money,” he said, likely rreferringto Facebook’s Oculus and its Home ecosystem. “And we’re like, we hate exclusives. We think it’s bad for everybody, certainly in the medium- to long-term, and I’d probably argue in the short-term as well.”

That’s not a new stance from the company, and Newell reiterated that Valve works with developers to help “manage your cashflow”.

At this point, we don’t need to remind you of the developer’s resume, and why you should be looking out for these games. The company previously suggested that we might see at least one of them at some point this year, and the 2017 Game Developers Conference is right around the corner. Could Valve be planning to steal the show there?

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Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick