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The HTC Vive Pro Goes on Sale for AED 3299 in the Middle East

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Following a preview at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show 2018, HTC Vive is bringing its most powerful virtual reality (VR) system ever to the Middle East with the availability of the HTC Vive Pro starting this month. The company confirmed that the Vive Pro’s new Head Mounted Display (HMD) will retail for AED3,299 and is available for purchase through its dedicated Middle East e-commerce store.

The regional launch took place during the celebration of a new strategic partnership between HTC Vive and Burj Khalifa, held at the exclusive Burj Level 112 within the global icon in Dubai, UAE. The partnership includes the Vive Pro being used in Burj Khalifa’s latest ‘Mission 828’ experience on its At the Top observation deck, with additional experiences in the works. Burj Khalifa will also sell the Vive Pro HMD at its popular retail boutique located in the world’s tallest building until mid-June, which welcomes thousands of international visitors each week.

The Vive Pro is built for VR enthusiasts and enterprise users who want the best display and audio for their virtual reality experiences. Vive Pro is a room-scale VR system that includes dual-OLED displays for a crisp picture resolution that is a 78% increase in resolution over the current Vive HMD—initially released in 2016. In addition to visuals, the Vive Pro also features integrated, high-performance headphones with a built-in amplifier that creates a heightened sense of presence and sound through noise cancellation capabilities.

“Today VR represents the convergence of technology with humanity, and that is unleashing human imagination in entirely new ways. When we step into VR, we step into a whole world which can truly change lives for the better. With more advancement systems like the Vive Pro, and together with strategic content and brand partners, we are now making the future more accessible to individual users, businesses and developers around the world,” said Raymond Pao, vice president of product & strategy and general manager of Asia at HTC Vive.

“We are elated to be showcasing the immersive power of VR to consumers and enterprises across the Middle East with the availability of the Vive Pro rolling out in the coming months. Our goal has always been to offer the most premium VR platform available, and the endorsement of such technologies by brands such as Burj Khalifa promises to make VR more accessible while expanding the potential for local developers,” added Ramit Harisinghani, vice president and head of Middle East & Africa at HTC Vive.

“Emaar consistently invests in the latest digital technologies to offer our visitors exceptional experiences as is underlined by Mission 828, a popular highlight of At the Top, Burj Khalifa, and a trend-setting VR experience. We are focused on strengthening our partnerships with tech leaders, to continuously enhance our innovative offerings. We will continue to push the boundaries of innovation for the leisure and entertainment industry and contribute to the city’s civic pride,” explained Ahmad Al Falasi, Executive Director – Group Operations at Emaar Properties.

Burj Khalifa launched Mission 828, which simulates the experience of scaling the building’s 828 meters to the top of the spire – the highest point of the global icon. The VR attraction gives visitors the opportunity to have the virtual experience of scaling to the pinnacle of the tower before taking a parachute-jump right down to The Dubai Fountain. Mission 828 can be experienced through six VR pods at Level 125 and another at Level 124. As part of the partnership with HTC, L125 will also be the exclusive venue that will showcase the HTC Vive Pro technology in the Middle East in the coming weeks.

Overall, total spend on AR and VR products across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is forecasted to reach USD 3 billion in 2018 alone, according to IDC, over double the amount spent in 2017. Current Vive owners can upgrade their headset to Vive Pro for the best display, audio, and comfort in the industry. The Vive Pro works with both SteamVR Tracking 1.0 and 2.0, meaning existing Vive customers can upgrade the headset only and continue to use current generation controllers and base stations. These improved graphics and audio allow for users to experience VR with enhanced clarity, making it the most realistic and immersive VR experience on the market today.

In addition, the Vive Pro has been rebuilt to maximize comfort for the most demanding VR users. The Vive Pro features a redesigned head-strap that balances the weight of the headset more evenly and features easy adjustment buttons for Vive users with glasses. With more than 3,000 titles available, Vive continues to be the platform of choice for developers and consumers alike. Operating in over 60 countries, HTC’s content platform Viveport also brings premium experiences in entertainment, education, arcade, arts & culture, and enterprise to a global audience. A Viveport subscription allows consumers to choose from over 400 pieces of content from a highly-curated offering, giving consumers the opportunity to discover the best VR has to offer.

The full Vive kit including the new Vive Pro HMD will be available as a single retail package starting in the Middle East from Q3 2018.

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‘Black Panther’ and its Science Role Models Inspire More Than Just Movie Awards

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Written by Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

It has been said many times that the Marvel movie “Black Panther” is an important landmark. I’m not referring to its deserved critical and box office success worldwide, the many awards it has won, or the fact that it is the first film in the superhero genre to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.

Instead, I’m focusing on a key aspect of its cultural impact that is less frequently discussed. Finally a feature film starring a black superhero character became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a successful run of intertwined movies that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. While there have been other superhero movies with a black lead character – “Hancock” (2008), “Blade” (1998), “Spawn” (1997) or even “The Meteor Man” (1993) – this film is significant because of the recent remarkable rise of the superhero film from the nerdish fringe to part of mainstream culture.

Huge audiences saw a black lead character – not a sidekick or part of a team – in a superhero movie by a major studio, with a black director (Ryan Coogler), black writers and a majority black cast. This is a significant step toward diversifying our culture by improving the lackluster representation of minorities in our major media. It’s also a filmmaking landmark because black creators have been given access to the resources and platforms needed to bring different storytelling perspectives into our mainstream culture.

2017’s “Wonder Woman” forged a similar path. In that case, a major studio finally decided to commit resources to a superhero film headlined by a female character and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Female directors are a minority in the movie industry. Jenkins brought a new perspective to this kind of action movie, and there was a huge positive response from audiences in theaters worldwide.

And beyond all this, “Black Panther” also broke additional ground in a way most people may not realize: In the comics, the character is actually a scientist and engineer. Moreover, in the inevitable (and somewhat ridiculous) ranking of scientific prowess that happens in the comic book world, he’s been portrayed as at least the equal of the two most famous “top scientists” in the Marvel universe: Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). A black headlining superhero character written and directed by black artists is rare enough from a major studio. But making him – and his sister Shuri – successful scientists and engineers as well is another level of rarity.

Scientists On Screen

I’m a scientist who cares about increased engagement with science by the general public. I’ve worked as a science adviser on many film and TV projects (though not “Black Panther”). When the opportunity arises, I’ve helped broaden the diversity of scientist characters portrayed onscreen.

Jason Wilkes is a black scientist on ‘Agent Carter,’ whose character emerged from the author’s talks with the show’s writers.
Panels from ‘The Dialogues,’ including a black female scientist. ‘The Dialogues,’ by Clifford V. Johnson (MIT Press 2017).

I’ve also recently published a nonfiction graphic book for general audiences called “The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe.” Its characters include male and female black scientists, discussing aspects of my own field of theoretical physics – where black scientists are unfortunately very rare. So the opportunity that the “Black Panther” movie presents to inform and inspire vast audiences is of great interest to me.

The history and evolution of the Black Panther character and his scientific back story is a fascinating example of turning a problematic past into a positive opportunity. Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he’s the first black superhero character in mainstream comics, originally appearing as a guest in a “Fantastic Four” Marvel comic. As a black character created and initially written by nonblack authors, guest-starring in the pages of a book headlined by white characters, he had many of the classic attributes of what is now sometimes controversially known as the “magical negro” in American cultural criticism: He ranked extremely highly in every sphere that mattered, to the point of being almost too unreal even for the comics of the time.

Black Panther is T’Challa, king of the fictional African country Wakanda, which is fathomlessly wealthy and remarkably advanced, scientifically and technologically. Even Marvel’s legendary master scientist – Reed Richards of the superhero team Fantastic Four – is befuddled by and full of admiration for Wakanda’s scientific capabilities. T’Challa himself is portrayed as an extraordinary “genius” in physics and other scientific fields, a peerless tactician, a remarkable athlete and a master of numerous forms of martial arts. And he is noble to a fault. Of course, he grows to become a powerful ally of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel superheroes over many adventures.

While likening Black Panther to a ‘refugee from a Tarzan movie,’ the Fantastic Four marveled at his technological innovations in ‘Introducing the Sensational Black Panther.’

The key point here is that the superlative scientific ability of our hero, and that of his country, has its origins in the well-meaning, but problematic, practice of inventing near or beyond perfect black characters to support stories starring primarily white protagonists. But this is a lemons-to-lemonade story.

The Fantastic Four were amazed by the scientific ingenuity of Wakanda in ‘Whosoever Finds The Evil Eye.’

Black Panther eventually got to star in his own series of comics. He was turned into a nuanced and complex character, moving well away from the tropes of his beginnings. Writer Don McGregor’s work started this development as early as 1973, but Black Panther’s journey to the multilayered character you see on screen was greatly advanced by the efforts of several writers with diverse perspectives. Perhaps most notably, in the context of the film, these include Christopher Priest (late 1990s) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (starting in 2016), along with Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, writing in “World of Wakanda” (2016). Coates and Gay, already best-selling literary writers before coming to the character, helped bring him to wider attention beyond normal comic book fandom, partly paving the way for the movie.

Through all of the improved writing of T’Challa and his world, his spectacular scientific ability has remained prominent. Wakanda continues to be a successful African nation with astonishing science and technology. Furthermore, and very importantly, T’Challa is not portrayed as an anomaly among his people in this regard. There are many great scientists and engineers in the Wakanda of the comics, including his sister Shuri. In some accounts, she (in the continued scientist-ranking business of comics) is an even greater intellect than he is. In the movie, T’Challa’s science and engineering abilities are referred to, but it is his sister Shuri who takes center stage in this role, having taken over to design the new tools and weapons he uses in the field. She also uses Wakandan science to heal wounds that would have been fatal elsewhere in the world.

Black Panther isn’t an isolated genius – his half-sister Shuri is a technological wiz herself.

If They Can Do It, Then Why Not Me?

As a scientist who cares about inspiring more people – including underrepresented minorities and women – to engage with science, I think that showing a little of this scientific landscape in “Black Panther” potentially amplifies the movie’s cultural impact.

Vast audiences see black heroes – both men and women – using their scientific ability to solve problems and make their way in the world, at an unrivaled level. Research has shown that such representation can have a positive effect on the interests, outlook and career trajectories of viewers.

Improving science education for all is a core endeavor in a nation’s competitiveness and overall health, but outcomes are limited if people aren’t inspired to take an interest in science in the first place. There simply are not enough images of black scientists – male or female – in our media and entertainment to help inspire. Many people from underrepresented groups end up genuinely believing that scientific investigation is not a career path open to them.

Moreover, many people still see the dedication and study needed to excel in science as “nerdy.” A cultural injection of Black Panther heroics helps continue to erode the crumbling tropes that science is only for white men or reserved for people with a special “science gene.”

The huge widespread success of the “Black Panther” movie, showcasing T’Challa, Shuri and other Wakandans as highly accomplished scientists, remains one of the most significant boosts for science engagement in recent times.

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TP-Link to Showcase Neffos X20 and X20 Pro at MWC 2019

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Neffos, TP-Link’s sub-brand for smartphones, will be exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, on February 25. The theme for the year’s biggest technology convention for mobile products and innovations is intelligent connectivity, which is in line with TP-Link’s slogan of “Faster Wi-Fi, Better Signal Phone, Smarter Home.”

At the MWC 2019 tech show, Neffos will display Neffos P1 as well with a built-in projector feature for beaming HD content onto a large wall. Neffos P1, which adds a laser projector that can throw a picture as large as 200 inches wide onto a wall or any flat surface in high resolution.

For the first time, the company will also showcase its new Neffos X20 and X20 Pro flagship phones. The two models are expected to hit the market sometime in June, along with Neffos’ own NFUI 9.0 software based on the Android 9.0 Pie operating system. As NFUI 9.0 hasn’t launched yet, the X20 and X20 Pro will be the first devices to run the latest user interface out of the box.

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OPPO’s VOOC Charging System Gets TÜV Rheinland’s Certification

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OPPO has received a new safety certification for its proprietary flash charging technology known as VOOC, which can charge a flat smartphone batter up to 40% in just 10 minutes. “The company recognizes that fast charging is now one of the most important demands from smartphone users globally who want a device that can fully charge in minutes, not hours,” said the company in a statement.

OPPO’s VOOC flash charging uses a special adapter and cables to charge devices safely at 25W without overheating—far above the industry standard. The company also offers a Super VOOC system that boosts the charging power to a massive 50W, capable of charging a flat battery to a full charge in just 35 minutes. Most high-end smartphones today take around 2 hours to fully charge.

The latest certification from renowned international safety authority TÜV Rheinland acknowledges that OPPO’s VOOC charging system has undergone rigorous testing across multiple sessions and test cycles to ensure its safety for daily usage. The VOOC system also allows users to safely use their smartphone during charging without it overheating.

OPPO’s VOOC flash charge technology is already used in more than 100 million smartphones worldwide including several models available in the Middle East today. The system is featured in OPPO’s flagship premium handset, the OPPO Find X, as well as its mid to high-end OPPO R17 and R17 Pro devices.

“Such innovations will continue as OPPO plans to raise its global R&D investments to around $1.43 billion in 2019, a 150% year-on-year increase,” said the company.

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