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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 23:20
Atari: Game Over Trailer

On Friday, Xbox Entertainment Studios (XES) released a trailer for Atari: Game Over, a feature-length documentary about Atari's downfall after the 1983 North American Video Game Crash. In April, Xbox dug up a landfill in Alamogordo, NM where video game lore suggested that hundreds of thousands of video games—specifically E.T. The Extra Terrestrial cartridges—were buried after E.T.'s fatal flop.

As you may have remembered from Ars' on-the-scene coverage, the rumor was proven to be more than just urban legend. Although the documentary's producer Jonathan Chinn admitted that Game Over would have gone forward whether the excavators found the cartridges or not, the companies behind the film had researched the area copiously and were confident the Atari refuse would be down there. They were right, and a few hours into the dig, a team of archeologists and filmmakers pulled up a handful of barely-tarnished E.T. and Centipede games among other Atari paraphernalia.

Although it seems like the documentary makers may have shown their hand too early (yep, everyone knows the games were down there by now), the excavators pulled up buckets and buckets of artifacts that press was not allowed to peruse. We'd be curious to hear more from people like archaeologist Andrew Reinhard, who was on the team that examined the contents of the landfill in-depth.

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, Atari, microsoft, xbox..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 22:15

The Nexus line is definitely not dead. Over the weekend, a report from Android Police claimed Google and the soon-to-be Lenovo-owned Motorola are working together on a 5.9-inch Nexus phone. Today, a separate report from The Information (subscription required) corroborates the earlier report and provides additional details.

Android Police pointed out the existence of a new Nexus device in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code base, code named "Shamu." As we went over before I/O, Nexus devices are always named after fish. The Nexus 5 is called "Hammerhead,"  and the 2013 Nexus 7 is called "Razor." The devices discovered before I/O were "Molly," which ended up being the Android TV developer kit, and "Flounder," which hasn't surfaced yet but is believed to be a 4:3 Nexus tablet made by HTC. (In the Material Design documents and promotional materials, Google frequently shows a 4:3 Android tablet next to other Nexus devices)

Being in AOSP and having a fish codename means the device is definitely a Google-made Android device. The report, which was labeled a "rumor," says Shamu is a 5.9-inch device that will be manufactured by Motorola. It also mentioned the possibility of a fingerprint sensor and a November release. The name "Shamu" would certainly fit the theme of a large device.

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Author: "Ron Amadeo" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets"
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 22:00

The Federal Communications Commission just started taking public comments on whether it should preempt state laws that limit the growth of municipal broadband in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Twenty states have passed such limits, which protect private Internet service providers from having to compete against cities and towns that seek to provide Internet, TV, and phone service to residents. After FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he intends to use the commission's authority to preempt the state laws, the commission received petitions from two public entities that want to expand broadband offerings.

"On July 24, 2014, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the City of Wilson, North Carolina filed separate petitions asking that the Commission act pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to preempt portions of Tennessee and North Carolina state statutes that restrict their ability to provide broadband services," the FCC said today. "The Electric Power Board is an independent board of the City of Chattanooga that provides electric and broadband service in the Chattanooga area. The City of Wilson provides electric service in six counties in eastern North Carolina and broadband service in Wilson County. Both Petitioners allege that state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services, and they request that the Commission preempt such laws."

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 21:40

Officials from China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) made surprise visits to four Microsoft offices today as part of what is described by the Financial Times as an antitrust probe. Offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Chengdu were inspected by SAIC officials.

The nature of the investigation is currently unclear, with neither Microsoft nor SAIC offering any details. So far, the regulator has made no formal complaint against the company.

Microsoft is already in the Chinese government's crosshairs, with the government issuing a ban on the use of Windows 8 on government PCs due to security concerns. In June, the state-run broadcaster called into question the security of the operating system and cited experts claiming that the company was working with the US government to spy online.

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Law & Disorder, antitrust, china, micros..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 20:45
Sharks Cove.

Even Microsoft wants a piece of the development board market made famous by Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Microsoft has teamed up with Intel and hardware maker CircuitCo to design the $300 "Sharks Cove," now available for pre-order. Described as a "development board that you can use to develop hardware and drivers for Windows and Android," it contains an Intel Atom Z3735G, a quad-core chip with speeds of 1.33GHz to 1.83GHz. It has 1GB of RAM, 16GB of flash storage, and a MicroSD slot.

Microsoft made its pitch in a blog post this past weekend:

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Technology Lab, beaglebone, circuitco, I..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 20:33
If you want to use a safe-for-work photo in an article about Hustler, a word to the wise: Stick to its casino offshoots.

Hustler Magazine founder Larry Flynt has begun making the interview rounds to promote the pornography magazine's 40th anniversary, but in a Monday interview with Bloomberg TV, the incendiary publisher spoiled the birthday party by predicting a short lifespan for his print edition.

"I don't think Hustler's going to be around very much longer," Flynt said. "Most people are getting their information from the Internet. It's a technology evolution that brings a lot with it and takes a lot away." When asked if he knew when the magazine would cease publication, Flynt said that it will remain so long as it continues to make money, adding "but we can see the handwriting on the wall."

While other major publishers have gone to great lengths to bemoan the modern media landscape, Flynt proved level-headed in the interview. In fact, he pointed out that his company's print portfolio only makes up ten percent of its revenue. "Our company has diversified so much," he said, noting bustling Internet success along with cable and satellite TV revenue throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia (with the notable exception of censorship-heavy China, which Flynt mentioned before reminding viewers of his Supreme Court victory in 1988).

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Author: "Sam Machkovech" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, Bloomberg, CNN, ..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 20:02

The energy storage density of batteries has made remarkable strides in the last few decades, but people will always be happy with further improvements. The more charge you can stuff into a limited space, the longer cellphones will last and the farther electric cars will drive.

Right now, the anodes of lithium-ion batteries contain material that stores lithium in its structure. It would be more efficient to simply make the anode out of lithium metal itself, but early attempts to do so haven't worked out especially well, as the metal forms structures that rapidly degrade performance of the battery. Now, researchers have figured out how to put a carbon cap on top of the metal, keeping the lithium in its place and greatly enhancing the anode's stability.

The researchers behind the new paper, who are based at Stanford, nicely describe the problems with some of the previous work on lithium metal electrodes. To begin with, as charge moves in and out of the electrodes, they will necessarily grow and shrink with the changes in the amount of lithium present. This strains any electrolyte they're in contact with, frequently causing defects to appear at the electrode-electrolyte interface. Once these defects form, lithium metal will preferentially be added at these sites, causing extremely uneven growth.

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Author: "John Timmer" Tags: "Scientific Method, batteries, chemistry,..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 19:00
Happy Anniversary.

Microsoft started running ads making fun of Siri last year to promote Windows 8 tablets. However, the Windows devices in those commercials were always mute—until now, Microsoft didn't have a virtual personal assistant of its own to answer back to Apple's service.

With this Windows Phone 8.1 ad, all that changes. The commercial pitches an iPhone 5S against a Lumia 635, and it shows off Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana. The ad highlights something that Siri can't presently do: give clever reminders that are triggered by events (talking to a particular person, being near a particular store) rather than presenting mere dates and times.

The comparison is a little strange, however. The Lumia 635 and iPhone 5s are at opposite ends of the price spectrum, and it's a little unlikely that any putative buyers are actually directly comparing the two.

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Cortana, microsoft, wind..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 18:30

GameStop has always been barely a single step up from a pawn shop with its practice of buying used games at low prices and selling them at ridiculous markups. Now, reports suggest that the massive brick-and-mortar game retailer is planning to enter another shady financial area by offering store-linked credit cards to customers at its thousands of locations.

Destructoid reports that it has "obtained photographs" of a purported brochure advertising a credit card tied to the retailer's existing PowerUp Rewards program. Signing up for the card nets customers anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 PowerUp Rewards Points (worth roughly $5 to $15 in value), according to the images, as well as benefits like "special financing offers." We'd expect that having a GameStop credit card would also provide Rewards Points for everyday purchases, but there's no mention of such a benefit in the report.

Destructoid's images show a healthy 26.99 percent APR for the card. That's well above the nationwide average of 13 to 16 percent, and it's also above the higher-than-normal rates charged by many other store-linked credit cards, which hover around the 22 percent range. And while Destructoid's sources say that "all PowerUp Rewards members are already pre-approved for the card," the materials themselves say that the card issuance is "subject to credit approval." Not that we suspect many people will be turned down for a card with such exorbitant interest charges.

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Author: "Kyle Orland" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, brick and mortar, Game..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 18:20

On Monday, the Mozilla Corporation announced that its last-minute April hire for interim CEO, Chris Beard, has been permanently appointed to the position. Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed the news in a blog post, stating that "the board has reviewed many internal and external candidates—and no one we met was a better fit."

Beard's Mozilla tenure began in 2004 and saw him eventually rise to chief innovation and chief marketing officer. He left the company in 2013 to become an "executive in residence" at Greylock Partners, an investment firm with a heavy focus on tech companies. His return to Mozilla in April came on the heels of Brendan Eich's controversial hire to the CEO position, which ended with Eich's resignation that month.

While both recent CEO hires came in the form of company veterans as opposed to outside hires, Beard's work included a wider spectrum of marketing and leadership roles, along with prior work with companies like Hewlett-Packard and Linuxcare. That's in contrast to Eich's engineer-first resume (lengthy and impressive as it is). Beard already has his hands full thanks to the company's increasing focus on Firefox OS as a viable smartphone alternative.

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Author: "Sam Machkovech" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, brendan eich, Mo..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 17:48


The Brooklyn Bridge caper is nearly a week old, yet it's still a whodunit despite the New York Police Department invoking every digital age investigative technique in the book to crack what appears to be a low-tech prank that included kitchen cookware to pull off.

The hunt continued Monday.

Vandals performed a monster switcheroo of sorts last Tuesday and removed two giant American flags from atop the bridge's two locked 276-foot towers, replacing them with white flags. The bridge is one of the Big Apple's most heavily guarded landmarks. The culprits, who scaled cables in the wee hours of the night, did it all under the cover of darkness by employing tin cooking pans to blot out the lights while sparking terror fears in the process.

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Author: "David Kravets" Tags: "Law & Disorder, license plate readers, P..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 17:30

Attackers have figured out a new way to get Amazon's cloud service to wage potent denial-of-service attacks on third-party websites—by exploiting security vulnerabilities in an open source search and analytics application known as Elasticsearch.

The power of Backdoor.Linux.Ganiw.a was documented earlier this month by researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. Among other things, the trojan employs DNS amplification, a technique that vastly increases the volume of junk traffic being directed at a victim by abusing poorly secured domain name system servers. By sending DNS queries that are malformed to appear as if they came from the victim domain, DNS amplification can boost attack volume by 10-fold or more. The technique can be especially hard to block when distributed among thousands or hundreds of thousands of compromised computers.

Late last week, Kaspersky Lab expert Kurt Baumgartner reported that the DDoS bot is actively compromising Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) hosts and very possibly those of competing cloud services. The foothold that allows the nodes to be hijacked is a vulnerability in 1.1.x versions of Elastisearch, he said. The attackers are modifying proof-of-concept attack code for the vulnerability, indexed as CVE-2014-3120 in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database, that gives them the ability to remotely execute powerful Linux commands through a bash shell Window. The Gani backdoor, in turn, installs several other malicious scripts on compromised computers, including Backdoor.Perl.RShell.c and Backdoor.Linux.Mayday.g. The Mayday backdoor then floods sites with data packets based on the user datagram protocol.

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Author: "Dan Goodin" Tags: "Risk Assessment, Technology Lab, Amazon,..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 17:19

One of the most common reactions to Verizon's announcement that it will throttle the heaviest users of its "unlimited" 4G plans went something like this: "That's the last straw—I'm switching to T-Mobile!"

Unfortunately, switching to T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint won't protect you from getting throttled, even if the carrier is claiming to sell you "unlimited" data.

Let's take a look at the relevant passages in each carrier's terms and conditions. We'll start with the Verizon Wireless announcement last week:

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, 4G, AT&T, LTE, S..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 16:25
The Lumia 1520 is currently the biggest Windows Phone, but at a mere 6 inches it could be dwarfed by future devices.

Before it has even delivered Windows Phone 8.1 to most users, Microsoft is readying its growing number of Windows Phone OEMs for the next release: Windows Phone 8.1 GDR 1.

Documents intended for the OEMs were accidentally made available on Microsoft's developer site for a short time, revealing details of what the patch will include. Though Microsoft has rectified the error, Paul Thurrott has posted a summary of what we should expect.

As with past platform updates, the release includes a mix of end-user features and behind-the-scenes improvements. The notable user-visible change is that the Start screen will support folders; drop one tile on top of another and it will form a folder, in much the same way as iOS and Android do. The Windows Store tile will also become live.

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, microsoft, phablets, win..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 15:50
So far, Amazon's contribution to the great wide world of 3D printing, where you are limited only by your imagination and stash of printing filament, is bobbleheads.

Amazon has opened a 3D-printing marketplace, offering customers the ability to buy customized products and trinkets like earrings or figurines. To enable customization, Amazon has built a new interface on top of its normal product pages that allows buyers to tweak the look of different 3D products.

There are plenty of 3D print-to-order businesses already in existence, including Sculpteo, Shapeways, and iMakr. While some work just as an on-demand service for individual customers, others are marketplaces for artists' and designers' 3D-printed products that users can browse and buy, like an iPhone phonograph amplifier.

Looking more closely at Amazon's implementation, it's more like the marketplace model, with partnerships from 3D printing services like Mixee Labs, which specializes in bobblehead figurines. 3DLT, a 3D printing design company, is also participating in the new venture, though it has sold its products through Amazon since March.

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Author: "Casey Johnston" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, 3D printing, 3dl..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 15:23
Meet GUSS, the little jeep that will follow you anywhere—if you happen to be a beacon-wearing Marine, that is.
TORC Robotics

The Marine Corps is testing a robotic version of its micro-truck, the Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), that can autonomously drive itself across rough terrain to carry supplies and ammunition for Marines in the field and evacuate the wounded. Called the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, or GUSS, the vehicle was developed in a collaboration between the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia Tech University, and TORC Robotics.

As part of the ongoing Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international naval exercise, the Marine Corps tested GUSS on Oahu at the US Army’s Kahuku Training Area. The vehicle can follow someone wearing a beacon at a predetermined distance or be dispatched to a waypoint by remote control. If it gets stuck, a human can either use a robotic controller to take direct control of the vehicle or jump into its driver’s seat and throw a switch to take control. According to a report from Fox, the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Marine Corps both rated the vehicle’s performance as good, particularly in simulations of casualty evacuations, as demonstrated in the following video:

The GUSS autonomous vehicle in action.

This isn’t the GUSS system’s first RIMPAC appearance. A different version of the system, based on a six-wheeled off-road vehicle, was tested during the 2010 RIMPAC exercise. GUSS and the ITV it is based on are small enough to be carried on a Marine Corps Chinook helicopter or Osprey tilt-rotor. More development work is required on the GUSS robotics system, which could be used on other vehicle “platforms,” but the Navy and Marine Corps believe that a version of it could be deployed within the next five years.

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Author: "Sean Gallagher" Tags: "Cars Technica, Gear & Gadgets"
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 01:00
Composite image of X-ray (pink) and weak gravitational lensing (blue) of the famous Bullet Cluster of galaxies.

It’s in the room with you now. It’s more subtle than the surveillance state, more transparent than air, more pervasive than light. We may not be aware of the dark matter around us (at least without the ingestion of strong hallucinogens), but it’s there nevertheless.

Although we can't see dark matter, we know a bit about how much there is and where it's located. Measurement of the cosmic microwave background shows that 80 percent of the total mass of the Universe is made of dark matter, but this can’t tell us exactly where that matter is distributed. From theoretical considerations, we expect some regions—the cosmic voids—to have little or none of the stuff, while the central regions of galaxies have high density. As with so many things involving dark matter, though, it’s hard to pin down the details.

Unlike ordinary matter, we can’t see where dark matter is by using the light it emits or absorbs. Astronomers can only map dark matter's distribution using its gravitational effects. That’s especially complicated in the denser parts of galaxies, where the chaotic stew of gas, stars, and other forms of ordinary matter can mask or mimic the presence of dark matter. Even in the galactic suburbs or intergalactic space, dark matter’s transparency to all forms of light makes it hard to locate with precision.

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Author: "Matthew Francis" Tags: "Features, Scientific Method, astronomy, ..."
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 23:35

Two years ago, the acronyms FISC or FISA would require a majority to frantically hit the Google search. But thanks to Edward Snowden and his leaked information regarding the NSA, the general public is now aware of the domestic-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's role: approving all government requests to engage in its various spying initiatives.

This weekend, Vice discovered an unusual, additional role for two FISC judges—stakeholder. According to 2013 financial disclosures obtained by the website, FISC Judge Susan Wright and FISC Judge Dennis Saylor each owned Verizon stock. Wright purchased (Scribd) $15,000 or less on October 22 and Saylor collected (Scribd) less than $1,000 from his stock in 2013. (As Vice notes, "the precise amount and value of each investment is unclear—like many government ethics disclosures, including those for federal lawmakers, investments amounts are revealed within certain ranges of value.)

There is an ethics law for federal judges that, among other things, requires judges to avoid cases where they have a financial stake or where they may act in bias. This scenario isn't quite that clear-cut. While FISC absolutely ruled on situations involving Verizon, Vice points out FISC proceedings are ex parte. Telecoms may absolutely have a stake in these FISC rulings, but they aren't an active party for the NSA requests FISC rules on.

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Author: "Nathan Mattise" Tags: "Law & Disorder, FISC, NSA, verizon"
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 22:00
HBO Films

The premise of Love Child, HBO’s latest feature-length documentary, doesn’t leave much room for moral questions or shades of grey. It opens with the 2010 story of a South Korean couple who met through an online video game, had a child, then neglected it in favor of playing said game. The baby girl died three months later of malnutrition; the couple found her the morning after they’d spent 10 hours (their typical session length) at a “PC Bang” gamer café.

The aftermath of that story, especially as it’s presented in this film, is pretty cut and dry: babies good, game addiction bad. Thus, this documentary (named after the baby in question, whose name, Sarang, translates to “Love Child”) doesn’t offer many surprises in perspective. It casts a particularly negative light on the gaming world and the rapid expansion of Internet access throughout South Korea.

As a result, the film’s attempts to humanize its subjects—Kim Jae-beom and his wife Kim Yun-jeong—are uneven and hard to swallow. To the filmmakers’ credit, that choice comes off as wholly intentional. Love Child paints the couple’s story in pity and sadness as it tries to make sense of how gaming, technology, and depression combined in a story that, tragically, has become a cornerstone in conversations about its nation.

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Author: "Sam Machkovech" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, documentary, HBO, love..."
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Date: Sunday, 27 Jul 2014 21:00

Bunch O Balloons is a new product that allows you to fill and tie dozens of water bombs at the same time and is sure to revolutionize water fights across the land.

On the face of it, it's a hose attachment with 37 pre-connected balloons that automatically tie themselves once filled with water. It looks a little like a bunch of deflated grapes. But the impact that this technological solution to a fiddly problem will have should not be underestimated: it's the water fight equivalent to the invention of the machine gun. Suddenly those who have this new munitions invention will have an enormous advantage over those who don't. The war will be one-sided, brutal, and extremely soggy.

The company behind Bunch O Balloons—Tinnus Enterprises—promises that it makes it possible to fill 100 balloons in just one minute. This compares to the six or so balloons that you could tie by hand per minute. It's devastating for your enemy.

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Author: "WIRED UK" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, Uncategorized"
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