Editor's Top Picks — GAMES


The Business of Fun

By Michael van Lent
From the February 2008 issue of Computer

According to the NPD Group, US videogame retail sales approached $12.5 billion in 2006, an increase of almost 20 percent over the 2005 total of $10.5 billion. While the frequently cited claim that "the game industry is bigger than the movie industry" does not hold up to scrutiny, it is true that US videogame retail sales exceeded the domestic box office movie gross of $9.2 billion in 2006, according to Box Office Mojo. Further, game sales are now going toe to toe with more established entertainment forms.

Digital Games Target Social Change

By Keri Schreiner
From the January/February 2008 issue of IEEE Software

In the digital gaming world at large, talk of "serious games" often culminates in a theoretical debate. Camp A is peopled by those who claim the essence of games is fun and the essence of fun is pleasure; given the real world's present complexity and well, issues, such pleasure is often found elsewhere. Camp B asserts that the core element of a game is engagement: that if a game captures and sustains the player's attention and interest, it succeeds as a game qua game. But does anyone really want to belly up to their 23-inch flat-screened browser and step into a world—this one—where human suffering and conflict are all too real? Many very smart and interesting people—as well as a few gigantic international corporations—are betting yes.

Cooking Up an Interactive Olfactory Game Display

By Takamichi Nakamoto, Shigeki Otaguro, and Masashi Kinoshita, Masahiko Nagahama, Keita Ohinishi, and Taro Ishida
From the January/February 2008 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications

It's long been possible to give users outside an actual environment that environment's visual and auditory information and thus contribute to establishing presence. However, we've yet to establish much presence when users require olfactory information—such as in environments focused on foods, flowers, perfumes, or, in some cases, more offensive smells.

Using a Game Engine for VR Simulations in Evacuation Planning

By Antônio Carlos A. Mól, Carlos Alexandre F. Jorge, and Pedro M. Couto
From the May/June 2008 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications

Researchers who want to use virtual reality-based simulations in their work must address some important requirements. Simulations require a good 3D graphical rendering capability. For realistic results, they must also consider the effects of physical laws, such as gravity and collision forces. A software platform that meets these requirements can serve a broad range of science and technology applications, but developing an entire platform is hard work itself.


What's New


The LilyPad Arduino: Toward Wearable Engineering for Everyone

By Leah Buechley and Michael Eisenberg
From the April–June 2008 issue of IEEE Pervasive Computing

The LilyPad Arduino toolkit enables novices to design, engineer, and build their own electronic textiles. The tool not only lets artists and craftspeople experience computational design but also gives children and teenagers a chance to develop longer-term interest in computing and engineering in a fun, creative setting.

E-textiles also give new, expressive materials to fashion designers, textile designers, and artists, and garments stemming from these disciplines usually employ technology in visible and dramatic style. Integrating computer science, electrical engineering, textile design, and fashion design, e-textiles cross unusual boundaries, appeal to a broad spectrum of people, and provide novel opportunities for creative experimentation both in engineering and design.

Preparing Graduate Students for Interdisciplinary Careers

By Matthias K. Gobbert and Nagaraj K. Neerchal
From the January/February 2008 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

Students preparing for careers in technical fields face a job market that continues to expect an ever-widening range of skills to complement subject-matter competencies. Such skills include being adept in communication, from traditional report writing and oral presentation to informal interpersonal communication and networking—the so-called "soft skills." It takes more than coursework to master these skills; rather, it takes an environment in which the student can practice the art of being a professional. It was with this in mind that the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), created its Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting (CIRC).

SmallBlue: People Mining for Expertise Search

By Ching-Yung Lin, Kate Ehrlich, Vicky Griffiths-Fisher, and Christopher Desforges
From the January–March 2008 issue of IEEE MultiMedia

Individuals and groups in large companies take on informal roles that can improve innovation effectiveness. A global study recently found that CEOs are most interested in establishing a supportive culture and climate to help their companies innovate, including developing new products, services, and markets; creating new business models; or improving existing operations. According to the study, CEOs care whether they can fully use the hidden potential inside companies—the knowledge in employees' minds and the relationships that employees have with one another. With a way to find expertise, a knowledgeable colleague might be just one phone call away from helping solve a complex problem. Finding the hidden connections in any organization helps people to work together and share social resources to achieve common goals.

Long John Software and the Digital Jolly Roger

By David Alan Grier
From the March 2008 issue of Computer

Even though it prominently displays a city vendor's license and health certificate, I am hesitant to purchase anything from Eddie's food cart. You just don't know where his food has been. Sure, most everything is sold in sealed packages, but many of those packages look as if they were snatched from the back of a pickup truck. Still, Eddie serves a good cup of coffee and has a loyal customer base, including limo drivers who are waiting for their employers to finish their power lunches at the nearby Costosi's restaurant.

I was chatting with Eddie recently when he suddenly asked, "Do you need some software?"

Self-Driving Cars and the Urban Challenge

By Chris Urmson and William "Red" Whittaker
From the March/April 2008 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

In 2003, DARPA announced the first Grand Challenge. Although no vehicle was able to complete this challenge, the competitors set a new benchmark for autonomous capability and provided a template on how to win the challenge. The next year, five vehicles completed a similar challenge, with Stanley edging out Sandstorm and H1ghlander to complete the 152-mile race in a little under seven hours.

As a next step, DARPA organized the Urban Challenge. The challenge called for autonomous vehicles to drive 60 miles through an urban environment, interacting with other moving vehicles and obeying the California Driver Handbook.

Risking Communications Security: Potential Hazards of the Protect America Act

By Steven M. Bellovin, Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, Susan Landau, Peter G. Neumann, and Jennifer Rexford
From the January/February 2008 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy

In August 2007, United States' wiretapping law changed: the new Protect America Act permits warrantless foreign-intelligence wiretapping from within the US of any communications believed to include a party located outside it. US systems for foreign intelligence surveillance located outside the United States minimize access to the traffic of US persons by virtue of their location. The new act could lead to surveillance on an unprecedented scale that will unavoidably intercept some purely domestic communications. A civil liberties concern is whether the act puts Americans at risk of spurious—and invasive—surveillance by their own government, whereas the security concern is whether the new law puts Americans at risk of illegitimate surveillance by others.

NVIDIA Tesla: A Unified Graphics and Computing Architecture

By Erik Lindholm, John Nickolls, Stuart Oberman, and John Montrym
From the March/April 2008 issue of IEEE Micro

The modern 3D graphics processing unit (GPU) has evolved from a fixedfunction graphics pipeline to a programmable parallel processor with computing power exceeding that of multicore CPUs. Traditional graphics pipelines consist of separate programmable stages of vertex processors executing vertex shader programs and pixel fragment processors executing pixel shader programs.

NVIDIA's Tesla architecture, introduced in November 2006 in the GeForce 8800 GPU, unifies the vertex and pixel processors and extends them, enabling high-performance parallel computing applications written in the C language using the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA2–4) parallel programming model and development tools.

Will the Overseas Expansion of Facebook Succeed?

By Yun Wan, Vaishali Kumar, and Amina Bukhari
From the May/June 2008 issue of IEEE Internet Computing

From News Group's acquisition of MySpace.com in 2005 to Microsoft's equity purchase of Facebook.com in 2007, social networking sites (SNSs) have become mainstream in the US. According to Wikipedia statistics, currently the Web has more than 100 popular SNSs. Five claim to have 50 million or more registered users, while the top three together – MySpace, Orkut, and Facebook – have more than 300 million currently, or roughly 5 percent of the global population (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of _social_networking_websites).

Discussing DRAM and CMOS Scaling with Inventor Bob Dennard

From the March 2008 issue of IEEE Design & Test of Computers

This is one of a series of ongoing interviews in IEEE Design & Test with well-known engineers in the electronics industry. In this interview, Ken Wagner talks with IBM Fellow Bob Dennard, the inventor of DRAM. In addition to his foundational work in DRAM, Dennard is also well-known for his work in CMOS process scaling.

Social Networking

By Alfred C. Weaver and Benjamin B. Morrison
From the February 2008 issue of Computer

Social networking is a concept that has been around much longer than the Internet or even mass communication. People have always been social creatures; our ability to work together in groups, creating value that is greater than the sum of its parts, is one of our greatest assets.

At its bare essentials, a social network consists of three or more entities communicating and sharing information. This could take the form of a research coalition, a Girl Scout troop, a church, a university, or any number of other socially constructed relationships.

Recycling e-Waste: The Sky Is The Limit

By Jan Krikke
From the January/February 2008 issue of IT Professional

The world generates about 40 million tons of PCs, cathode-ray tube (CRT) screens, fax machines, game consoles, mobile phones, and other e-waste every year. Barely 20 percent of this highly toxic waste is properly disposed of and recycled. Some e-waste is stripped of precious metal and unusable components are dumped in landfills, poisoning the soil and precious water resources. Unregulated e-waste trade affects a growing section of the population. China, one of the largest processors of e-waste, has exported jewelry containing toxic lead from e-waste. But public pressure to recycle e-waste is having a major impact, and e-waste recycling is now one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.

Are We There Yet?

By Bill Feiereisen
From the March/April 2008 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

If We Build It, Will They Come?

By George K. Thiruvathukal
From the March/April 2008 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

Two of Computing in Science & Engineering's editorial board members describe the magazine's current and future Web presence. We start with Bill Feiereisen's discussion of science on the Web and what it could mean for CiSE ("Are We There Yet?") and end with George Thiruvathukal's discussion of the challenges therein ("If We Build It, Will They Come?").

Cheek to Chip: Dancing Robots and AI's Future

By Jean-Julien Aucouturier, Katsushi Ikeuchi, Takaaki Shiratori, Shunsuke Kudoh, Hirohisa Hirukawa, Shin'ichiro Nakaoka, Fumio Kanehiro, Tetsuya Ogata, Hiroshi G. Okuno, Hideki Kozima, Marek P. Michalowski, Yuta Ogai, Takashi Ikegami, Kazuhiro Kosuge, Takahiro Takeda, and Yasuhisa Hirata
From the March/April 2008 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

It probably started as a funny one-minute demo in the entertainment industry, but more and more AI researchers are trying to make robots dance to music. And as the ideas and technologies develop, it's clear that dancing robots can be serious indeed. In this installment of Trends & Controversies, you'll see how they address issues that are central to modern AI—and how they do so in original ways.

"Googling" Test Practices? Web Giant's Culture Encourages Process Improvement

By Greg Goth
From the March/April 2008 issue of IEEE Software

In the wider world, Google has become a common verb as well as a noun; you can "google" any person, place, or thing, and more likely than not obtain some sort of information. But Google might also become a benchmark term for a new wave of improved software-testing practices. Numerous emerging elements, beyond Google's sheer size and cachet as the Web's most-used search engine, could make this possible.

Constructing Arden: Life Inside the Machine

By Edward Castronova, Travis Ross, Mark Bell, Matthew Falk, Robert Cornell, and Matt Haselton
From the January–March 2008 issue of IEEE MultiMedia

The player is in the virtual world of Arden: The World of William Shakespeare. This massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) lets hundreds or even thousands of people log into these environments and interact with each other socially, intellectually, and economically. User-customized avatars travel through the world, performing quests, making friends, and accumulating wealth. These worlds simulate vast geographical areas that exist in the shared memories of distributed computers.