Category Archives: The Reluctant Technologist

Tech reviews for people who hate tech reviews.

The Reluctant Technologist on the LG enV3

For all its pros, the enV2’s slicker younger sibling has got plenty of cons. Read on for the good, the bad and the just plain weird.

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The Reluctant Technologist on Guitar Hero 5

I’m not going to rehash my love of the Guitar Hero franchise; though my fervor for virtual wanking has waned over the years, and the game’s technology has advanced beyond what my last-gen game system and “cozy” living room can accommodate, I am an unabashed fan of the game and don’t purport impartiality.  From one iteration to the next, the developers have upped the game, improving graphics and peripherals (ie the instruments), expanding multiplayer modes and fine tuning the user interface (for example, smoothing out hammer-ons and pull-offs between Vs 1 and 2).

GH5, released in September, follows the vein of this evolution. Since I couldn’t care less about customizing my avatar’s visage and wardrobe or scoring a Marshall stack, for the purpose of this review I’ll focus on a just a few of the pithier, niftier new features. Like Party Play mode, in which tunes play continuously from a track list and players can drop out whenever they lose interest or need to refresh their PBRs, and jump in with the press of one button. In case earlier versions weren’t quite ADD enough for you.

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The Reluctant Technologist on Mattel’s Mindflex

Come on Schwartz. Come on Schwartz.

Come on Schwartz. Come on Schwartz.

The fundamental premise of the Mattel Mindflex makes it one of the coolest games ever. Seriously, ever. (Note, I didn’t say most fun, I said coolest. There’s a difference.) The object is to move stuff with your mind. Here’s the gist: You put this doodad on your head, then you stare at this li’l Nerf ball real hard, then suddenly the ball starts floating. You levitate the thing. It’s pretty trippy.

I tested this out a few months ago and wrote about it for Popular Science. The itch to try it for myself was strong enough that I actually put that ridiculous thing on my head in a public place, and tried to be the ball. The headband has a sensor — a dry contact electrode — that rests on your forehead just above the left eyebrow, over the SP-1 region of your brain’s frontal lobe. That’s the part of your noodle involved in things like problem solving, motor function, memory, language and judgment. (Clips on your ear lobes take a baseline reading as a control.) When activity in the area increases, the game runs an algorithm to translate that into a level of concentration, which then determines the level, or height of the ball. The headband and game base communicate over a wireless bandwidth similar to Bluetooth. Amazingly, you look like even more of an asshole in this contraption than the jerks with their LED-flashing earpieces. Added bonus.

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The Reluctant Technologist on Big Buck Hunter Home Edition

For about the cost of an evening of pints you can, for the first time, bring home the popular bar game Big Buck Hunter. Released this month by Jakks Pacific ($40), Big Buck Hunter Pro home edition is a simple plug and play for your TV. (That means you don’t need a game system – just those yellow and white holes in your set.) No question that the game is manufactured by a toy company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play it with a bunch of your grown up friends and a six-pack apiece. In fact, I recommend a six-pack apiece, to blur the sights on the game’s fundamental drawbacks.

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