Monthly Archives: November 2016

USB Type-C: A (confusing) breakthrough

Lately, a new port has become one of the seemingly ‘universal’ ports – the USB Type-C (or simply USB-C) port. Is this real innovation that helps simplify lives, or is it all about the jumbled fuss of more cables and adapters? Let’s find out.

First of all, some clarification

The USB specification is fragmented and confusing, so first, we’ll need to clarify a common misunderstanding.

There is one thing you need to keep in mind: there are two different specifications that this article will explain simultaneously – the USB protocol specification and the USB port specification.

USB Protocol Specification specifies the available bandwidth, power limits and capabilities of the USB connection. These are numeric, like USB 1.0, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 etc.

USB Port Specification refers to the size and shape of the physical USB ports, and the pins in these ports. There are alphabetic, like USB Type-A, USB Type-B, USB Type-C (or simply UBS-A, USB-B and USB-C). Some of these ports also have a mini or micro version, like Micro-USB A, Mini-USB B etc.

This article will go through the details of these specifications later. For now, just remember that numbered specification/version (like USB 2.0) refer to the USB Protocol, while alphabetic specifications (like USB-C) refer to the physical port used for the connection.

A Brief History of USB

Development on the Universal Serial Bus (USB) started in 1994-1995 by several companies including IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Compaq, with Ajay Bhatt being a major contributor in the development. The goal was to have a simple & universal connector to connect peripheral devices.

usb

Further development on USB and newer specifications has been summarized in the following table.

This icon refers to a USB Port Specification This icon refers to a USB Protocol Specification

 

Time USB Specification Features
1996 USB 1.0 Two speed modes:

  • Low Speed mode – upto 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps)
  • Full Speed mode – upto 12 Mbps

Upto 2.5W power transfer at 5V (500mA max)

USB 1.0 certification logo

USB Type-A First connector under the USB standard, supported USB 1.0, USB 1.1 and USB 2.0. It has 4 pins – 2 for power and 2 for data.

USB-A connector

1998 USB 1.1 Fixed some problems with USB 1.0, mainly with USB Hubs.

Widely adopted by manufacturers.

April 2000 USB 2.0

(aka High-Speed USB)

First major revision of the USB Protocol.

Transfer rate of upto 480 Mbps, same power delivery specifications as USB 1.0.

USB 2.0 certification logo

Late 2000 Mini-USB Type-A Not very popular, rarely seen on devices.

Mini-USB A Connector

USB Type-B Square port connector, still commonly used in printers and scanners. Supports USB 1.0, USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 connections.

USB-B connector

Mini-USB Type-B It was commonly seen in feature phones. Rarely used now.

Mini-USB B connector

2007 Micro-USB Type-B

(popularly called Micro-USB)

Very popular, especially in portable devices such as phones and tablets. Claimed a life of upto 10,000 insertion-removal cycles.

Micro-USB B connector

2008 USB 3.0

(aka SuperSpeed USB)

(Later unnecessarily renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1)

Transfer speeds of upto 5 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

New Power Delivery standards, allowing upto 7.5W at 5V (1.5A max)

USB 3.0 certification logo

Revised SuperSpeed connectors To achieve higher bandwidth, USB 3.0 requires 5 more pins than USB 2.0-compatible ports have. Thus, new port connectors were introduced with 5 more pins. The best thing is that all these port connectors are backwards compatible with their respective USB 2.0 versions.

SuperSpeed USB-A connector (Many manufacturers made SuperSpeed USB-A ports blue to differentiate them from slower USB-A ports)

Note: SuperSpeed USB-A connector also supported USB 3.1 Gen 2 released later

SuperSpeed USB-B connector

SuperSpeed Micro-USB B connector

July 2013 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Greater transfer speeds of upto 10 Gbps

Newer power delivery standards, allowing upto 60W at 12V (max 5A) or 100W at 20V (max 5A). This is a leapfrog improvement over previous power delivery standards, and it allows ultrabooks and laptops to be charged via USB.

Works on USB-A and USB-C connectors.

USB 3.1 Gen 2 certification logo

August 2014 USB Type-C USB Type-C aimed to be the One Port to Rule Them All

First ever reversible USB connector.

Miniature form factor, allowing thinner ultrabooks and other mobile devices.

Compatible with USB 3.1 Gen 2 and all previous USB Protocol Standards.

Since USB-C supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, it supports power delivery upto 100W. This enables modern ultrabooks and laptops to be charged via a USB-C port. (Like Apple’s new MacBook has a single USB-C port for charging and data transfer).

USB-C connector

What the fuss is all about – Thunderbolt

From the table above, USB-C seems pretty straightforward – it supports upto 10 Gbps transfer speed and upto 100W power delivery because it runs on USB 3.1 Gen 2. But since don’t we live in a non-ideal world, things don’t end here.

In 2011, Apple and Intel introduced a new interface to connect peripherals and displays – Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is very different from (and also faster than) USB because runs on the PCIe interface. PCIe is the ‘backbone’ interface on the motherboard, onto which essential devices such as Graphics Cards and Sound Cards are connected. Thunderbolt has had two revisions since the initial release – conveniently named Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 1 & Thunderbolt 2 utilized the Mini DisplayPort connector.

Thunderbolt 1/2 connector (same as a Mini DisplayPort connector)

Now comes the fussy part – Thunderbolt 3. Thunderbolt 3 supports bi-directional transfers upto 40 Gbps. Instead of using the Mini DisplayPort Connector, Thunderbolt 3 utilizes the USB-C connector.

usb-logo

Thunderbolt 3 connector (same as USB-C connector)

USB-C ended up being a modern, compact and reversible connector used for two completely different interfaces – USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3, which has led to some confusion among customers. Thankfully, since Thunderbolt 3 is superior to USB 3.1, most (if not all) Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports also support USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Left – A USB 3.1 Gen 2 port on a desktop

Right – A Thunderbolt 3 port on an ultrabook

Visually, the two can’t be told apart because both interfaces use the same physical connector

A Potential Threat to Gaming Laptops

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) or Graphics Cards are pieces of hardware that make your machine capable of rendering models/simulations and running high-end games. Conventionally, there were dedicated Gaming Laptops with powerful GPUs. One major drawback of gaming laptops is that they are thick and bulky and heavy because of the powerful internals, bigger batteries to power high-end GPUs and better cooling systems.

In 2014, gaming laptops and desktops manufacturer Alienware demoed its Alienware Graphics Amplifier, the first-ever commercially available way to attach graphics cards externally. This opened a possibility for portable laptops that can be connected or docked to External Graphics Cards. The Alienware Graphics Amplifier uses a proprietary connector to connect a desktop Graphic Card to a laptop (over the previously mentioned PCIe interface).

The Alienware Graphics Amplifier with a high-end desktop GPU connected to an Alienware laptop using a proprietary connector

Since Graphics Cards need to run on the PCIe interface, Thunderbolt 3 (which also supports PCIe)and USB-C have made standardized External GPU solutions a reality. The Razer Core is a standard External GPU solution that can be used to attach a desktop GPU to any laptop with Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C (This won’t work over a USB-C port with just USB 3.1).

The Razer Core connected to an ultrabook over Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C

External GPUs pose a threat to future gaming laptops, since they enable portable ultrabooks to be even more powerful than conventional gaming laptops by just plugging in a USB-C cable. With this, a single machine can be the best of both worlds – an ultraportable device when mobile, and a powerful gaming beast when docked.

In Conclusion

Although the USB standards have been regularly updated, this time is different. We now have a small, reversible connector that enables completely new interfaces and connections – from faster storage devices to monitors with more resolution, and from laptop chargers to external graphics cards – all over a single mighty port, USB-C. This versatility also ensured that the breakthrough USB-C is a confusing addition to the already-confusing family of USB ports and protocols.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

Brief:
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is one of the best games I have ever played. Is it the best of the lot? I think so. Is it better than The Last of Us? I think not. But Uncharted 4 pulls off something so big and essential that these little comparisons and questions are left irrelevant. You’ll be yearning for more when you’re done with this experience. Developer Naughty Dog has done it again and has once again conquered and proved its rightful title as the best developer in the industry. This is a must play and definitely one of the games to beat in 2016. It is not just a game. It’s an experience.

uncharted-4-a-thiefs-end-madagascar-screenshot-15_1920-0-0

Uncharted 4 is beautiful and by far the best looking game I have played to boot. Not even games like Dying Light or the new Tomb Raider – which punish your PC when played on Ultra – can come close to how gorgeous this looks. This game is straight up alluring. The in-game environments, textures, lighting, character models and especially the late game rain effects are so true to life that while I was playing at home, my parents kept confusing it with some high-definition action movie. The game is so good looking that Naughty Dog shows-off their talents and the game’s beauty by including an in-built timer saying ‘time spent standing still and looking at the scenery.’

Main:

Platform: PlayStation 4
Developed by: Naughty Dog
Release date: May 10, 2016

It’s universally accepted that if you cry at the denouement of an experience, it’s either exceptionally fine or exceedingly deficient. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End brought tears to my eyes, but it is definitely much more than just fine. Playing it for the first time gives you the same feeling that you had when you first saw Yuvraj Singh hitting those six 6’s against England, it makes you realise how much Nathan Drake has grown and how far developer Naughty Dog has come. It gives you that sense of pride and allegiance towards Naughty Dog that you almost get emotional (a lot, in my case). Uncharted 4 is so good, that it is not just a game, it is art. Just like The Last of Us, it is an example of what video games can be and how much the medium has grown.

Uncharted 4 is beautiful and by far the best looking game I have played to boot. Not even games like Dying Light or the new Tomb Raider – which punish your PC when played on Ultra – can come close to how gorgeous this looks. This game is straight up alluring. The in-game environments, textures, lighting, character models and especially the late game rain effects are so true to life that while I was playing at home, my parents kept confusing it with some high-definition action movie. The game is so good looking that Naughty Dog shows-off their talents and the game’s beauty by including an in-built timer saying ‘time spent standing still and looking at the scenery.’ The attention to detail is immaculate. If you haven’t played the previous Uncharted games then I recommend that you go and do so because of two reasons: firstly, the previous games themselves are must plays and will surely give you an amazing experience, and secondly (definitely the more important reason), Uncharted 4 gives so many nods to the previous titles that it is hard not to marvel and love Naughty Dog even more. Trust me, you would be a fool to play this without having played the preceding ones. It rewards the player with a sense of homecoming and trust with all its little and BIG Easter eggs. This feels like a Naughty Dog game and that is a great thing.

The game plays like an Uncharted game and is very much an Uncharted game, but I can’t emphasise enough that The Last of Us is all over this game that at some instances it doesn’t feel like an Uncharted game. We see this in the form of new types of collectables like notes and journal entries, which tell little stories of their own very much like The Last of Us did. This new form of environmental storytelling mechanic fleshes out the world and gives us a greater incentive to explore every little of its nooks and crannies. The new optional dialogue mechanic taken straight from The Last of Us helps flesh out the beloved characters of the franchise like Elena and Sully even more but also helps in the character building of the newer characters like Nate’s older brother Sam and the excellent villains (I’ll not name them to prevent spoilers). While all these new mechanics help make it a better experience, there are a few new gameplay elements like stealth (which has been seen before in Uncharted 2 but is much better this time and is almost identical to that in The Last of Us), tagging enemies, rope traversal, sliding mechanics and driving which in my opinion are extremely solid and functional but they don’t blow them out of the park. The shooting mechanics, melee and traversal feel extremely good and satisfying and are definitely a step above the previous games where these felt a bit empty. One aspect of the game that stands out is the new buddy system. It helps make the combat more fun and exhilarating and helps one take a more dynamic and fluid approach to their play style.

The game is excellent in it’s pacing and it ramps extremely well. It starts off slow with some hard hitting emotional beats and then ramps just at the right pace to make you feel engaged and involved in every moment with amazing looking cut-scenes and outstanding performances from the experienced cast. The moment-to-moment gameplay is so good that it feels exactly like an action movie. The story of Uncharted 4 is excellent and in my opinion, the best of the lot. It is a lot more grounded and real. This is definitely a more mature and “grown-up” Uncharted. Unfortunately, saying more about the story takes it into “spoiler-territory” and trust me you DO NOT want it spoiled for you.

It is also notable to say that this is a lot longer than the previous games that took about 8-10 hours whereas I clocked in at around 18 hours on Hard. This is a considerably longer playtime than the previous titles, but trust me, it does not take away from the experience. These 18 hours are some of the most memorable I’ve ever spent with a game.

Score: 9.8/10

Reviewed by: Siddharth Maharishi

http://domainsquareplus.blogspot.in/2016/05/uncharted-4-thiefs-end-review.html

Dark Souls 3

Brief:
Overall Dark Souls III offers a complete and defined player experience unrivaled by any in it’s category, the sprawling world, dark theme, enemies, weapons and armor all complement each other down to the tiniest detail and the fighting mechanics are to drool for, movement, weapons, cosmetics, potions, magic, what’s not to like ?

The Team at Domain²+ thoroughly enjoyed our playthrough and given a chance we’d change next to nothing in this beautiful adaptation of what is sure to become what can only be described as a Cult Classic.

The original Dark Souls, elegantly presented a world which was drifting slowly but surely towards the forthcoming apocalypse, Dark Souls III violently plunges you into a chaotic,neurotic world which gets your adrenaline pumping from minute 1. Superb class and character design, accompanied by a plethora of sharp pointy objects to flay, fillet and decapitate with results in the optimum amount of satisfaction for the player, add stunning visuals to the already mesmerizing equation and you get the very essence of Dark Souls III.

The Kingdom of Lothric and its underlying areas offer some of the most picturesque, horrific scenery you can imagine. With steep lush hills leading straight into swamps and bogs full of *cough* unforgivingly *cough* hard enemies, caverns and churches all giving off that decidedly Dark Souls vibe. The scenery comes with it’s own array of assorted night terrors & amazing boss fights from Iudex Gundyr in the beginning to the box depicted Soul of Cinder. Every fight leaves you with chills and an immense sense of self gratification.

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Developed by: FromSoftware
Release date: March 24, 2016

The critically acclaimed Souls Series by FromSoftware, published by Bandai Namco, has received it’s latest installment, the behemoth itself Dark Souls III. With precursory titles such as Bloodborne and the original Dark Souls, it has a mighty benchmark to live up to, and we the gamers at Domain²+ are pleased to report that it truly does.

darksouls1280jpg-98f75c_1280w

The original Dark Souls, elegantly presented a world which was drifting slowly but surely towards the forthcoming apocalypse, Dark Souls III violently plunges you into a chaotic,neurotic world which gets your adrenaline pumping from minute 1. Superb class and character design, accompanied by a plethora of sharp pointy objects to flay, fillet and decapitate with results in the optimum amount of satisfaction for the player, add stunning visuals to the already mesmerizing equation and you get the very essence of Dark Souls III.

The Kingdom of Lothric and its underlying areas offer some of the most picturesque, horrific scenery you can imagine. With steep lush hills leading straight into swamps and bogs full of *cough* unforgivingly *cough* hard enemies, caverns and churches all giving off that decidedly Dark Souls vibe. The scenery comes with it’s own array of assorted night terrors & amazing boss fights from Iudex Gundyr in the beginning to the box depicted Soul of Cinder. Every fight leaves you with chills and an immense sense of self gratification.

Dark Souls follows the lineage by having tremendously hard enemies which will smother, crush, stomp, jerk & rip your character into shreds if you even give them a pinky finger’s worth of leeway. This is where the aforementioned ‘sharp pointy objects’ come into play, an arsenal of maces, clubs, katanas, swords, great-swords, axes and so much more at your disposal for the soul (punz) purpose of digging into the enemies and digging out of your premade grave, all in one piece.

The mechanics are polished, with every roll, duck and parry seeming lifelike, every move you make plays a crucial survivability role. Fast, agile & hard hitting enemies and even faster and more hard hitting Bosses results in a game that always keeps you on your toes. Like earlier games this installment also features the popularly known save mechanic of bonfires which ties into the lore of Dark Souls very well. Bosses like the Nameless King and his Wyvern Steed result in you attaining what can only be described as a higher state of consciousness while fighting them. After players have gone through the PvE content there is also optional ‘Invasion’ PvP content which allows players to drop into other users games and fight them for loot and riches.

Score: 9.3/10

Reviewed by: Anubhav Ghosh

Rocket League

For the uninitiated, Rocket League pits two teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 players in a cage like arena – with one objective – score. The possibilities of various moves that Psyonix has allowed, and the sandbox nature of the game, have really helped this game hit its stride. I mean, you can jump off the wall, fly towards the ball, dribble the ball on your head, use the balls for a 1-2-1, and even hit a pool shot using another person’s car!
On the dark side though, rubber-banding, lags and other hitches during online play are common, and since there are no servers in India, the high ping remains a constant thorn in the flesh. The AI is relatively stupid as well, scoring own goals regularly for no rhyme or reason, leaving you frustrated beyond compare.
The matchmaking balances the skill relatively well, with no awkward Rookie versus Expert matches taking place. Also, the possibility of creating Private Lobbies is a huge plus if you wanna go mano e mano with that one friend and show them who’s boss.

With football and cars, does Psyonix have the right mix?

Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, OS X, Linux
Developed by: Psyonix
Release date: July 7, 2015

The ball is in the air. The attacker lies in wait, and the goalie, ready to parry. As the ball falls towards the goal, the attacker hits, and scores, flying with his car to the top of the cage, celebrating…
Yes, you read that right. Car. That, dear reader, is the premise of Rocket League – football with cars. And mind you, these aren’t the 40 year old minivans your grandpa used to drive – they’re supersonic beasts, which can fly (and do a whole lotta other stuff as well.)
The game is the hyper – powered sequel to Psyonix’s original Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars or SARPBC for short. It builds on its predecessor, refining the Thunderdome like cage matches, heavily improving the visuals (have a look below):

sarpbc_3

A typical SARPBC interface

6f0df079f0ec8c47bdbbde38f7cdfaa1

And… Rocket League. See the difference?
and adding various customization options (also an active player base – almost no one played SARPBC), and regular updates with new game modes like Ice – Hockey and Basketball (not kidding).
For the uninitiated, Rocket League pits two teams of 1, 2, 3 or 4 players in a cage like arena – with one objective – score. The possibilities of various moves that Psyonix has allowed, and the sandbox nature of the game, have really helped this game hit its stride. I mean, you can jump off the wall, fly towards the ball, dribble the ball on your head, use the balls for a 1-2-1, and even hit a pool shot using another person’s car!
On the dark side though, rubber-banding, lags and other hitches during online play are common, and since there are no servers in India, the high ping remains a constant thorn in the flesh. The AI is relatively stupid as well, scoring own goals regularly for no rhyme or reason, leaving you frustrated beyond compare.
The matchmaking balances the skill relatively well, with no awkward Rookie versus Expert matches taking place. Also, the possibility of creating Private Lobbies is a huge plus if you wanna go mano e mano with that one friend and show them who’s boss.

Wrap up:
Summing up, Psyonix does have a winner on its hands with this one, being a rare example of a crazy idea executed so perfectly. It leaves you with that unsatisfying greed to play ‘one more’, till you’re able to pwn Kronovi himself. The game is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for a mere 500 bucks. I strongly recommend you get this one.

Verdict: ESSENTIAL
Score: 9/10

Reviewed by: Ayush Singla

Is gaming only limited to its game?

When my class teacher pictures gaming, she visualizes a group of teenagers whiling away their time in front of the television with their parents shouting from the other room. However, from personal experience, I can confidently say that videogames are anything but a waste of time.

However, it is also important to address people’s reservations about gaming. Most parents complain that their children spend a lot of time on video games, and it is no mystery that video games capture the imagination of teenagers and adolescents. Therefore, an idea that comes to mind is, why not use games for ‘edu-tainment’ purposes? People can be taught useful skills through games, which they would be averse to learning through generic methods.

Irrespective of genre and platform, video games have been proven to be beneficial to a myriad of motor-coordinated bodily functions. They help in enhancing users’ reaction times and hand-eye coordination since many games entail high speed chases and movement. Games also improve visualization and active cognitive skills. They induce creativity, perception of shapes and dimensions, and also improve the condition of people with attention deficit disorders.

Whether one likes it or not, video games are the future of education and entertainment. The problems of this century will be solved by the method of learning through simulation and application of those skills in real life. Video games are here to stay.

Written by: Aman Sidhant

The World of Speedcubing

The Rubik’s cube is a popular source of entertainment. Though basic in concept, it has baffled people of all ages across the world for decades. It is incredibly simple, yet surprisingly complex – a paradox in the real sense!

Since its creation by Hungarian mathematician Ernố Rubik, people have spent countless hours trying to come up with viable methods for solving it that didn’t rely on luck. After all, with its 43 quintillion (a billion raised to the power 3 multiplied by a thousand) possible permutations, it’s pretty hard to get lucky. These methods became widely known due to their simplicity and efficiency. Some of these are – CFOP, Roux, Petrus, ZZ, Heise and their variants. Several people have been able to solve the Rubik’s cube using these methods and consequently, solving the Rubik’s cube now has become a competitive sport. This new activity was named “Speedcubing”, which refers to solving the cube in as little time as possible.

cube

One question which may immediately come to mind is whether solving the cube makes you smarter. Well, it won’t help help you pass exams, but it’ll keep your brain active in terms of cognitive skills. You’ll inevitably develop a wider perception of problem solving. As for motor skills, cubing goes a long way in improving hand-eye coordination and concentration in general. Among the eight different types of intelligence that humans are presumed to have according to Howard Gardner, spatial or visual intelligence is the foremost – the ability to mentally recreate the real world. Given its three-dimensional nature, the cube can help in improving spatial intelligence.

The world of speed cubing

The Rubik’s cube is a popular source of entertainment. Though basic in concept, it has baffled people of all ages across the world for decades. It is incredibly simple, yet surprisingly complex – a paradox in the real sense!

Since its creation by Hungarian mathematician Ernố Rubik, people have spent countless hours trying to come up with viable methods for solving it that didn’t rely on luck. After all, with its 43 quintillion (a billion raised to the power 3 multiplied by a thousand) possible permutations, it’s pretty hard to get lucky. These methods became widely known due to their simplicity and efficiency. Some of these are – CFOP, Roux, Petrus, ZZ, Heise and their variants. Several people have been able to solve the Rubik’s cube using these methods and consequently, solving the Rubik’s cube now has become a competitive sport. This new activity was named “Speedcubing”, which refers to solving the cube in as little time as possible.

One question which may immediately come to mind is whether solving the cube makes you smarter. Well, it won’t help help you pass exams, but it’ll keep your brain active in terms of cognitive skills. You’ll inevitably develop a wider perception of problem solving. As for motor skills, cubing goes a long way in improving hand-eye coordination and concentration in general. Among the eight different types of intelligence that humans are presumed to have according to Howard Gardener, spatial or visual intelligence is the foremost – the ability to mentally recreate the real world. Given its three-dimensional nature, the cube can help in improving spatial intelligence.

The World Cube Association is an organisation which forms rules and regulations and regularly conducts various events across the globe. The popularity of this sport is continually growing given the many benefits as well as the competitive nature of the events conducted by WCA. Also, several manufacturers (including Rubik’s) released variants of the Rubik’s cube (such as the 2×2, 4×4, 5×5 and Pyraminx).

Finally, one must realise that speedcubing isn’t just about going to competitions and trying to win – It’s about meeting new people, sharing experience, and having a great time. The true spirit of speedcubing is in constantly striving to improve, and ultimately reaching your goal.

-Kunal Oak(11-F)

Rebranding: Challenges and Prerequisites

One fine day, I logged into Facebook as I do every hour, and caught myself staring at the logo. Considering it was Facebook, I had spare time and decided to redesign the logo, thinking of it as a quick job. One hour and a couple of glasses of coke in, and mercilessly pulling my own hair, I had nothing to show for it on my screen. This seemingly small incident surprised me more than it upset me. Even though options were available to switch among around a thousand fonts, millions of colour variants, and plenty of other features, I failed to come up with a good alternative logo, and meanwhile decided to explore the challenges and prerequisites that come with re-branding.

It leads to more creativity, and compels us to do more than recycle designs from the internet. Rebranding is a chance to change with the need to, and gain a necessary sense of accomplishment. Moreover, it helps us experience how designing would be under limitations and regulations, which will ultimately help us succeed in our design careers. Designing is a journey that helps us change and learn, and the rebranding process is a process through which our community grows.

Re-branding: Challenges and Prerequisites

One fine day, I logged into Facebook as I do every hour, and caught myself staring at the logo. Considering it was Facebook, I had spare time and decided to redesign the logo, thinking of it as a quick job. One hour and a couple of glasses of coke in, and mercilessly pulling my own hair, I had nothing to show for it on my screen. This seemingly small incident surprised me more than it upset me. Even though options were available to switch among around a thousand fonts, millions of colour variants, and plenty of other features, I failed to come up with a good alternative logo, and meanwhile decided to explore the challenges and prerequisites that come with re-branding.

rebranding

The process of rebranding makes us realise how successful companies have been in imprinting their logos in our mind, and this is essentially the biggest challenge that lies in front of us. We are so used to the current logos that anything else feels…unnatural. Another technical hurdle is the limited scope: We have to adhere to a set scheme of colours, fonts, and proportions at all times. This is opposite to what we experience designing from scratch, simply a white canvas and innumerable possibilities. Leaving aside the science, creative personnel encounter a barrier unrelated to the physical work, namely the adoption of a philosophical outlook. If we aim to redesign an already aesthetically pleasing logo, we need good reason. This reason, more often than not, is in form of a philosophical one, a change which lets the logo connect better with the target audience. For example,

https://medium.com/art-marketing/the-new-google-logo-rounded-off-45db0524b46f

-Gyan Lakhwani

(Image of the Rounded off and the Original Logo and the reason behind the change)

Luckily, the perquisites outweigh the challenges. Most importantly, the process pulls us out of the conventional designing process and makes us learn more than we ever can. It leads to more creativity, and compels us to do more than recycle designs from the internet. Rebranding is a chance to change with the need to, and gain a necessary sense of accomplishment. Moreover, it helps us experience how designing would be under limitations and regulations, which will ultimately help us succeed in our design careers. Designing is a journey that helps us change and learn, and the rebranding process is a process through which our community grows.

For instance, this redesign of gaana.com’s logo uses a font which is beautifully geometric and has a forwardness appearance. The italicized font style also indicates motion in music.  The more circular g and a symbolize openness and harmony. The icon is the first thing one sees when one downloads an application, and since gaana is a hindi word, gaana.com can utilise this identity to connect with its target audience. Visually, the Hindi letter ga resembles musical notes.

(Courtesy: Anand Chowdhary, tiny.cc/anandc)

Tanmay Bansal

Driverless Cars

Introduction

Advances in modern automobile technology have completely changed how we commute. Although we’ve been unable to recreate lightsabers, we’ve built something equally awesome: driverless cars.

driverless

How They Work

The way in which driverless cars reason about their surroundings is not very different from us humans. Using radar, lidar, cameras as well as some peripheral technologies, driverless cars are able to sense not only the presence of objects but also their velocity and their size. This raw data is then processed to calculate trajectories and other similar factors. The car responds to this data by turning, speeding up and stopping. This cycle is repeated extremely fast, thousands of times a second, allowing the car to achieve response times much, much faster than humans.

This isn’t very different from how we humans process information. Our senses perceive stimuli, our brain processes them, and we decide how to respond.

The reason why driverless cars are groundbreaking is that they’re autonomous, not automatic. A driverless car doesn’t need the installation of any special equipment on roads, which means we don’t need to spend money on installing additional infrastructure on roads. You just need the car.

* Lidar is a technology similar to radar, where you bounce some sort of wave off the environment and see how the environment responds. In the case of radar, it’s a radio wave, while LIDAR uses a laser.

The Big Players

There are a few big players in the driverless game, but the industry is lead by Tesla Motors and Google.

Tesla rolled out its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature to most of its cars in September 2014. It’s not completely autonomous, i.e. there still needs to be someone behind the wheel to take control of the system during any difficulties. Tesla Motors was one of the first companies to market driverless technologies to ordinary consumers, starting nearly 5 years ago, and remains a leader in the commercial driverless car industry. Unlike most other driverless cars, Tesla automobiles have a consolidated body. External components aren’t required since the sensors are built into the car itself.

Google isn’t a car maker. Its driverless car project is part of a larger effort to aid the transition to electric cars for cleaner energy and its cars have driven nearly 3 million kilometres. There were only a few accidents, and all of them were attributed to human error.

A Driverless World

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors has stated that he believes that eventually, human driving will be outlawed because of its dangers.

Although it is difficult to entirely eliminate traffic, traffic is still an area where driverless cars can help. A network of driverless cars could intelligently avoid situations that increase the

chances of having a traffic jam. Driverless cars will also open up a lot of possibilities for refueling, since driverless cars could just go refill their tank / battery themselves, without any human intervention.

Where Do The Jobs Go?

In New York City, a taxi medallion is a license required to pick up people who hail taxis on the street. The cost of a taxi medallion was 1 million dollars a year ago, but with the introduction of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, the price has fallen to just half a million dollars. Because of this, taxi drivers are unable to sell their medallions and join Uber or Lyft since they would be making a loss. Driverless cars would be another nail in the coffin of the nearly 42,000 taxi drivers of New York City, driving the costs of taxi medallions further down and leaving taxi drivers stranded.

Driverless cars would poach jobs from taxi drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, truckers and bus drivers, causing an unemployment crisis. 0.3% of the US GDP comes from these individuals, who earn a mean income of 42,000 dollars and account for 67 billion dollars of income.

We could see a crash reduction rate of up to 90%, leaving 445,000 automobile repair technicians without jobs since people would visit their shops less often.

The Trolley Problem: A Thought Experiment

There is a runaway trolley hurtling down the railway tracks. If the trolley is allowed to move on the tracks unimpeded, it will kill 5 people. You stand near a lever which can divert the trolley to a different track, but you notice that there is a person on the other track as well. Would you divert the trolley, killing one person but having to bear the responsibility for his death, or let the trolley continue on, killing five?

Another variant of the trolley problem is one where you’re standing on a bridge, above the railway track. Rather than pulling a lever to divert the trolley, you may push a fat man off the bridge and onto the path of the trolley in order to stop it. Would you push the man off the bridge or let the trolley continue on and kill the 5 people?

The relevance of the trolley problem in the world of driverless cars is in a situation where the car has to either run over a pedestrian or swerve and cause the death of the car’s occupants. It is a difficult problem and doesn’t really have any solutions. If you want to offer your opinion on dilemmas like the trolley problem, then you can take MIT’s Moral Machine survey at moralmachine.mit.edu. It’s very interesting and pretty thought-provoking and I strongly recommend you take it.

Liability

The trolley problem leads us to an interesting legal problem: if the car hits a pedestrian, is involved in an accident that kills the occupants, or crashes, then who is liable? Is the manufacturer or are the occupants of the car? Pinning liability on the manufacturers is problematic; making manufacturers liable for accidents demotivates them from manufacturing the driverless cars in the first place, and ultimately stifles innovation. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense for the occupants of a completely autonomous car to be liable for accidents.

Volvo, which hopes to roll out its driverless IntelliSafe Autopilot system by 2020, says that it will take responsibility and pay the damages for accidents caused by its driverless cars. Erik Coelingh, its senior technical leader for safety and driver support technologies, said that the Volvo’s IntelliSafe Autopilot system will eventually include so many redundant and backup systems that a human would never have to intervene, and could not be at fault. It’s hoped that other car makers will follow suit, but liability, in this case, is a complex legal problem and it will take several lawsuits before it is fully understood how responsibility should be attributed in the event of an accident.

Uber’s Driverless Cars: A Case Study

The city of Pittsburgh is home to bridges (446 of them!), tricky intersections, hilly areas, diverse climatic conditions and a large variation in terrain. It’s also home to Carnegie Mellon University, which has one of the most advanced robotics and machine learning programs in the world. This made it a perfect location for Uber to test out its fleet of self-driving cars, which it rolled out in September 2016.

The fleet right now consists of modified Ford Focus cars. The cars have 20 cameras, seven lasers, GPS and radar equipment, and a liquid-cooled computer in the trunk. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, you can recognize these cars from the spinning lidar unit on the roofs and the Uber logo across their sides.

The cars are requested in the usual way, by ordering an Uber ride from the app. The app randomly pairs you up with a driverless car, and for the time being, rides in these driverless cars are free.

Since the cars are currently in testing and are not completely ready, they still require an Uber technician to be at the wheel and ready to take over at any moment in case of difficulties. There’s usually an Uber engineer sitting next to the technician, noting down any unusual occurrences and ensuring everything is going smoothly.

The cars are currently not able to navigate bridges which is ironic since Pittsburgh is often referred to as ‘the City of Bridges’, in reference to the city’s whopping 446 bridges. Bridges pose a unique challenge since they lack contextual cues like landmarks and buildings.

During a visit to Pittsburgh, I had the unique experience of seeing several of Uber’s driverless cars for myself. They’re easy to spot, and you’ll see several if you’re walking around the city.

What About India?

While European countries and the US are wrapped up in the testing of driverless cars, we have to wonder: what about India? Will India ever be ready for driverless cars? At the moment, driverless cars require well paved roads with clear markings. India lacks the infrastructure for these cars to run, with only 16% of all roads being paved. In a country where roads lack basic traffic signs, a car which reacts by reading these signs and markings would run into problems pretty soon. Sudden obstacles like cows and other animals also pose serious problems.

To shine a bit more light on how an Indian techie would view driverless cars, we were lucky enough to have Rajiv Mangla, the CTO of Snapdeal share his opinion. We asked him about the scope of driverless cars in the future of India. He believes that it will leave many unemployed but will make for well-planned cities. Daily commutes will be much more predictable. However, he feels that India isn’t going to see commercial driverless cars in the near future unless the technology in the cars and the quality of roads is improved.

This doesn’t mean that Indians can’t make driverless cars. A few Bangalore based engineers have already retrofitted a Tata Nano with sensors and cameras to turn it into an autonomous vehicle. Roshy John, the person behind this project, began his work in 2011. Although the team is yet to take the car for a test drive, it means the future for Indian autonomous vehicles may not be too far away.

What The Future Holds

It’s hard to say what the future holds for driverless cars since they face a number of hurdles. Many people are still reluctant to sit in them out of safety concerns. It’s up to companies like Uber, Tesla, and Google to show people that driverless cars are the future, and that the future is now.

Written by Kabir Goel. Section on India written by Sarah Randhawa.