Take a virtual tour of Mars with this new 360-degree image from NASA

NASA published a 360-degree image on the Curiosity rover’s official Facebook page last week that was meant to let viewers “explore Mars” with their smartphones. It was a great idea, and it teases at how, someday relatively soon, we’ll be able to explore other planets virtually well before any of our descendants get a chance to do it in person.

Unfortunately, the rover isn’t equipped with a camera that can shoot 360-degree video, let alone three-dimensional VR. So the spherical image had to be hand- (or computer-) stitched by someone at NASA from dozens of high-resolution images. The result was messy — the images were stretched so badly Mars looked almost unrecognizable.

A much better version of the one released last week

Luckily, a…

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Author: Sean O’Kane

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Google Planning New VR Headset to Launch This Year – Report

Google will launch a new virtual reality headset this year, according to a new report from The Financial Times. The Web giant released its first VR device, the low-cost Google Cardboard, in 2014, but the new one is reportedly being positioned as more of a direct competitor with the Samsung/Oculus Gear VR headset.

Citing sources reportedly familiar with Google’s plans, FT reports the new headset will include “better sensors, lenses, and a more solid plastic casing.”

This as-yet-unnamed VR headset will launch this year, the report claims, alongside an update to Google’s existing Android VR technology. Similar to Cardboard and Gear VR, Google’s device will apparently use a smartphone for its display and computing power.

FT also reports that the new Google VR headset will make use of a “much broader range” of Android devices than Gear VR. That headset is only compatible with the latest Samsung Galaxy models.

Google declined to comment. However, as GameSpot sister site CNET reports, CEO Sundar Pichai said recently that Cardboard, which has shipped 5 million units, represents just the start of Google’s plans for VR.

“It’s still incredible early innings for virtual reality as a platform,” Pichai said. “Cardboard is just a first step, but we are excited by the progress we have seen.”

Head to FT to read the full story and get all the details.

Clay Bavor, Google’s vice president of VR, is one of the featured speakers for this week’s Vision VR/AR Summit in California. If he announces any VR plans during the event, we’ll have the details for you.

If Google’s new VR headset indeed launches this year, it won’t be alone. Other high-profile VR headsets debuting in 2016 include Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive.

What would you like to see from a new Google VR headset? Let us know in the comments below!

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Author: Eddie Makuch

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President Obama will ask Congress for $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus

President Obama plans to ask Congress for $1.8 billion to help fight the Zika virus. If approved, the emergency funds will be used to support mosquito control programs and vaccine research, as well as health services for pregnant women with low incomes. So far, only a dozen cases of Zika have appeared in the United States, and there’s been only one known case of local transmission in Texas. However, additional funds will go to countries that are currently experiencing Zika outbreaks to help stop the spread of transmission.

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Author: Loren Grush

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Hitman PS4 Beta Starts This Week, Watch New Trailer Now

The upcoming beta for Square Enix’s Hitman starts on PlayStation 4 later this week. Now, the publisher has released a trailer for the beta that invites players to “play the beginning.” Check it out below.

The Hitman beta is set in a “top secret recruitment and training facility,” which is shown off in the video here. As you play your way through it, you’ll discover how Agent 47 initially joined the ICA.

That’s all Square Enix is saying about the Hitman beta for now. But we’ll no doubt learn more soon, as it begins on PS4 this coming Friday, February 12. PC players can get in starting February 19. In all cases, the only way to guarantee yourself entry into the beta is to preorder Hitman.

Hitman’s beta has been announced only for PS4 and PC, not Xbox One.

In January, Square Enix and developer Io Interactive announced Hitman will be “fully episodic” instead of being a full game at launch. The game will be split into episodes that are released over the course of the year. The prologue and first mission are still planned for released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 11, but the other content previously promised for launch–the Italy and Morocco missions–are now coming later. The Italy mission will be released in April, followed by Morocco in May.

Hitman arrives across PS4, PC, and Xbox One in March 2016. The game was originally slated to launch in late 2015 but was delayed so that developer IO Interactive could add more content.

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Author: Eddie Makuch

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Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Expands Lore, Explains C-3PO's Red Arm

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens developer TT Fusion has discussed the game’s hooks into the movie and the greater Star Wars universe. Speaking In an interview with Game Informer, head of Design Mike Taylor confirmed the studio has been given the freedom to flesh out key characters and adapt tie-in material.

“The thing with The Force Awakens is that we’ve had the privilege of being able to create some additional content,” he said. “Some additional levels that take place before the events of The Force Awakens and allow us to explore some of the backstory of the characters, which is an absolute dream for any fan of Star Wars.”

He later added: “We’ve covered–or are in the process of covering–some pretty significant events that happen before the film that give people more information about why certain things in The Force Awakens happened and why certain characters have ended up where they are.”

Some of the game’s exclusive new Star Wars material draws from “the content in some of the other additional materials that Lucasfilm have been involved in.”

Other parts of the game encompass story and lore explored in material such as the Marvel’s new comic books, in which the origin’s of C-3PO’s red arm were revealed. There are six of these “bridge content” missions, according to Taylor, and they’re unlocked by collecting a certain number of gold bricks.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and will provide “additional insight” about The Force Awakens and its characters, according to Warner Bros. Playable characters include Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, BB-8, Kylo Ren, General Hux, Captain Phasma.

Following a leak, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment officially announced the Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens release date as February 2. The game will launch on June 28 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, and PC.

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Author: Tamoor Hussain

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First Click: Super Bowl records, Beyoncé's record, and a preview of the week ahead

You did it, you survived to tell the story of another Super Bowl. You, and more than 100 million other viewers across the globe. It’s not quite the FIFA World Cup as far as global spectacles go, but the Superb Owl still attracted a “record audience” of streaming viewers despite a few early glitches on CBS’ service. We’re still waiting for the detailed numbers, but re/code’s Peter Kafka helps contextualize things by noting that NBC’s record-setting stream from last year’s game attracted an audience of 1.3 million concurrent users measuring 800,000 average viewers per minute for a total of 213 million minutes. We’ll soon know how Super Bowl 50 compares.

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Author: Thomas Ricker

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