SciTech

Science Briefs: New technique may cut gigabyte guzzling for video games

Landon Cox, of Duke University, worked to develop a technique that delivers video games’ graphics and gameplay on par with conventional cloud-gaming setups – for a fraction of the bandwidth.:
Landon Cox, of Duke University, worked to develop a technique that delivers video games’ graphics and gameplay on par with conventional cloud-gaming setups – for a fraction of the bandwidth.: Duke Photography

New video game technique uses less bandwidth

Gamers might one day be able to enjoy the same graphics-intensive fast-action video games they play on gaming consoles or personal computers from mobile devices without guzzling gigabytes, thanks to a new tool developed by researchers at Duke University and Microsoft Research.

Named Kahawai after the Hawaiian word for stream, the tool delivers graphics and gameplay on par with conventional cloud-gaming setups for a fraction of the bandwidth. “That’s a huge win, especially if your cellphone plan has a data cap,” said Duke computer scientist Landon Cox, who helped develop the approach.

To reduce the amount of data remote servers have to send during a game, Kahawai relies on a technique called “collaborative rendering.” While conventional cloud gaming relies on a remote server to compute all of the game’s 3-D graphics, collaborative rendering lightens the load by letting the mobile device’s graphics processing unit do some of the work.

The task of quickly generating fine-grained details – such as subtle changes in texture and shading at speeds of 60 frames per second – is still left to the remote server. But collaborative rendering lets the mobile device generate a rough sketch of each frame, or a few high-detail sketches of select frames, while the remote server fills in the gaps.

The researchers integrated Kahawai into the software behind Doom 3, a futuristic first-person shooter game about a space marine struggling to stay alive on Mars. Compared with conventional cloud gaming setups, Kahawai delivered the same visual quality while using one-sixth of the bandwidth. duke.edu

Hormone-sensitive muscles aid bird’s courtship dance

New research from a Wake Forest University biologist who studies animal behavior suggests that evolution is hard at work when it comes to the acrobatic courtship dances of tropical bird species.

Assistant professor of biology Matthew Fuxjager’s study, published in the journal Functional Ecology, investigated how the ability to detect testosterone in the body regulates the acrobatic courtship and competitive behavior of male golden-collared manakins.

There are about 60 different species of manakins, most of which perform, to some degree, a physically complex display to court females and compete with other males, he said.

He hypothesized that evolution acts to help shape the mating display behavior by controlling androgen sensitivity in the avian wing muscles. What he found is that those birds with more complex displays had muscles more sensitive to testosterone. wfu.edu

N.C. teen’s project wins EPA sustainability award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Joshua Zhou of Chapel Hill won the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award for his work to develop a sustainable, affordable solution to improve water quality and reduce pollution.

Zhou, a sophomore at East Chapel Hill High School, created a low-cost semiconductor using natural light to reduce pollutants from combustion that enter waterways, which are often drinking water sources.

Zhou was selected from 1,702 student scientists and engineers competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, for his project, “Low-cost Heteronanostructure Semiconductor Uses Visible Light Energy to Efficiently Degrade Toxins Threatening Aquatic Life.” epa.gov

Ancient snakes hunted by night, had hind legs

A comprehensive analysis by Yale University paleontologists reveals new insights into the origin and early history of snakes. For one thing, they kept late hours; for another, they also kept their hind legs.

"We generated the first comprehensive reconstruction of what the ancestral snake was like," said Allison Hsiang, a postdoctoral geology researcher at Yale and lead author the study published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

"We infer that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes was a nocturnal, stealth-hunting predator targeting relatively large prey, and most likely would have lived in forested ecosystems in the Southern Hemisphere," Hsiang said. Also learned: Ancestral snakes seized their prey with needle-like hooked teeth and swallowed them whole. yale.edu

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