Revealed: Aston Martin’s seven year supercar plan

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  • GENEVA MOTOR SHOW
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Andy Palmer is a car guy. Even in his former life as chief planning officer at Nissan he was focused on producing the most relevant and exciting products he could. By his own admission, though, his first job when he arrived at Aston in 2014 was accountancy.

“The DB11 project started in 2012, it’s a Marek Reichman creation, he deserves all the credit for how the car looks,” Palmer told us at the Geneva show, just minutes after the DB11’s unveiling. “What the car didn’t have was a business case and funding, so that’s what I focused on initially.”

As it stands, it’s paid off handsomely, because Palmer has secured around £700m in funding – enough for the next four years, by which time the debts will be paid.

“Aston has always been about getting enough money to get to the next car, but that doesn’t work because this industry requires a cadence of cars,” he explained. “Ultimately the money I’ve raised gives me DB11, Vantage, Vanquish and DBX. After that I’ve got free cash flow so I can invest in the three that come after that. Seven cars, seven years.”

Pretty jam-packed schedule isn’t it? The new Vantage is due in 2017, will be based on a cut-down version of the DB11’s all-new bonded aluminium chassis and will be the first model to feature the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 bought from AMG. “The DB11 and new Vantage both look like Astons, but side by side they don’t look anything like each other,” said Palmer. “I wanted the ride and handling to reflect that so Matt Becker has tuned the DB11 so you can drive 500 miles and still be fresh, whereas the Vantage should knock your fillings out.”

In 2018 we’ll see the next Vanquish – essentially a DB11 turned up to, erm, 11. Expect close to 650bhp from the new 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 and a more aggressive slant to the styling. Then, in 2019 we’ll see the Welsh-built five-door, all-electric DBX crossover – Palmer’s two-birds-one-stone model that will reduce the average fleet emissions and attract more female buyers to the brand.

Beyond that the other three new model lines are “crystal clear” in Palmer’s head, but he’s not letting on. What we do know is the Lagonda brand will continue its resurgence, so our educated guess is one large and one small saloon, as well as a range-topping successor to the One-77.

But wait, there’s more. Aston’s special ops department, referred to by Palmer as his “Q division”, will be tasked with producing two special runs every year. Palmer defines a special as cars like the GT12 and Vulcan, models with production runs of “no more than 100 to 150 units, or sometimes as low as one.”

“They are our provenance cars. We’ve made less than 80,000 cars in 102 years, but when Gaydon and St Athan are up to full capacity we will be building 14,000 or 15,000 a year,” He explained. “That’s a very different place, so we want to make some cars which are the future DB5s. They let us experiment with things we wouldn’t necessarily do on full production cars. A lot of aero on DB11 comes from the Vulcan.”

And the DBX won’t be the only EV in Aston’s arsenal either. An electric version of the Rapide, previewed by the RapideE concept late last year should be ready by 2018 and ditch the 6.0-litre V12 in favour of 800bhp to 1000bhp-worth of batteries and electric motors. It’s Aston Martin, Jim, but not as we know it.

[“source-Topgear”]

MGS 5’s ending IS finished argues Japan’s biggest Metal Gear expert (but it’s complicated)

WARNING: WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE ENDING SO THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

There’s no doubt that MGS 5 is an excellent game but the odd pacing and strange ending led many to argue that it was ultimately unfinished – with the ongoing disintegration of Kojima and Konami’s relationship clearly being held up as the culprit.

It didn’t help that one piece of content, the game’s 51st chapter, titled Kingdom of the Flies, was apparently cut and only turned up on a bonus Blu-ray disc in the collector’s edition of MGS 5.

Much of the discussion about whether MGS 5 got the ending it deserves hinges on how integral this missing piece was to the story (it’s something we’ve discussed at length before). Which is where Kenji Yano comes in. He’s the author of ‘METAL GEAR SOLID Naked’, a hugely authoritative Japanese book on the series, as well as the editor of several Japanese MGS novelisations. He’s basically probably one of the few people in the world that has a Kojima-level grasp on the series.

He’s spoken on the ending previously, talking to Famitsu in December, but his take on what happened has only recently been translated. As far as he’s concerned, Episode 51 is not “essential to the game.” Instead it has become “an outlet for venting all the unease and confusion” that followed the end game reveal that you’d actually been playing as an impostor the whole time. “Up until Episode 46, The Man Who Sold The World, players experience the story as Snake,” explains Kenji, “but then they have the rug pulled out from under them.”

One thing Kenji is sure about is that “as a commercial product and physical thing Metal Gear is definitely over.” (Which might come as news to Konami as it prepares to make a non-Koj MGS 6.) However, he also thinks that “in a way it isn’t,” highlighting a passage from Moby Dick (a reference that runs rife through the entire game). The passage in question involves the Moby Dick character Ishmael lamenting his role as narrator (the “shabby part of the voyage”) before taking the place of Ahab’s bowman, “when that bowsman assumed the vacant post”. Sounds a little like the role swapping in MGS 5 to you?

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve talked about MGS 5’s ending before  and spookily a lot of what Kenji says ties in to our own interpretation:

“If MGS5 is Kojima’s final MGS game, it’s clear he is passing on ownership of the series to us. Not only do MGS5’s open-world systems make you author of its legacy (each gamer’s story will be their own), but he is deliberately stepping back from didactic cut-scenes and holding our hand. It couldn’t be any more clear: we are Big Boss now”

The elements of confusion and ambivalence, making it hard to pin an ending down more clearly, appear deliberate. In a translation of Kojima’s own thoughts on the game, he says, “there is a blank space, but it will not be filled. In that blank space there is always a hero. Because there is a blank space, you can advance ahead. It is this blank space exactly that is ‘V’” Kojima also explains the idea that the player “(as Ahab, or BB’s double) is facing up to this ‘blank space’…” When you think about it, even the game’s reveal was built around the blank spaces that appeared in the logo.

Finally, in the same translation Kojima actually added extra fuel to the ‘Metal Gear is totally over’ fire (in his eyes) by talking about the series’ 28 year lifespan and quoting author, Dennis Lehane: “No matter what kind of series it is, there is a time that it must end.”

[“source-gamesradar”]

Why My Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality Headset Is Gathering Dust

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Photo by Daryl Deino

I once considered the Samsung Gear VR the most innovative tech device since the iPad in 2001. The Gear VR went with me everywhere. I bought the developer’s version in December of 2014 and the commercial version last November. I never thought I would get bored of it, but I have; it’s is in my room gathering dust. As a matter of fact, when I went to test out a new app this morning, I had to wipe the lenses.

Don’t get me wrong; the Gear VR really is an innovative device and Samsung deserves a lot of credit for helping Oculus build a device for mobile VR. When I first got it, my eyes spent hours viewing movies in the VR Cinema. It was so cool to have my own virtual IMAX movie theater. It was also cool to visit China, New York City, and even Africa just by putting on the headset. Did I mention that both you and a friend who is thousands of miles away can visit the moon together while watching video clips and chatting, provided that both of you have the Gear VR?

The problem is that although all this is exciting at first, the rather poor quality of the experiences seeps in and, eventually, these experiences become too much of a hassle. The biggest problem is what is called the “screen door effect,” where one can easily see individual pixels that build up an image. It’s like looking at something through a screen door. A Quad HD resolution screen may look beautiful on a smartphone from a foot away, but when that screen is magnified in front of your eyes, things are different.

Perhaps, a 4K screen would take care of the screen door effect, but a 4K smartphone screen eats up a lot of battery life and isn’t necessary for 95 percent of smartphone users. Still, this is needed to make what’s supposed to be an immersive experience more immerse.

The most annoying problem with the Gear VR (and this includes every version that has been released so far) is that the lenses fog up really easily. Sometimes, it gets so annoying that you just want to take the Gear VR off your head and throw it across the room. I have found a solution that usually helps: Rain-X Interior Glass Anti-Fog. But why should somebody have to spend money on this after they already spend more than $100 (it used to be more than $200) on the headset?

Then, there is what is commonly know as the FOV (field-of-view), which determines the widest dimension your eyes can see an image. While the Gear VR does provide somewhat of an immersive experience, it looks like you are seeing that experience through an igloo helmet. However, it gets worse. Because of the light reflection, your eyes will notice two transparent dark squares on the sides of the image. They aren’t that prominent, but they are there. When you look to the right one, it disappears and the same goes with the left one. But in the virtual reality world, you need to be able to look in the center.

In order to get rid of these transparent and annoying black squares, I have tried to put a couple of bandages on my nose, which sometimes works, but makes the headset feel more uncomfortable. Once again, why should I have to make the compromise? Why should the consumer have to make all these compromises? The Gear VR is supposed to be about enjoyment, but it’s become a tough job to get it to work correctly.

 

Perhaps I am being a little too harsh. After all, most people I have showed the device to have been blown away — at least at first. I dare anybody not to be totally impressed with the Jurassic World VR app, which has an Apatosaurus staring right at you, centimeters away from mistaking you as a vegetable. There is also Temple Run VR, which makes you really feel like you are running away from monsters. The Netflix app is also enjoyable, just as long as you don’t watch anything more than a half hour.

However, VR is a very important type of techology. It has failed for decades and only now does it have a chance of taking off. If consumers experience mediocre virtual reality experiences like they do with the Google Cardboard or frustrating experiences with the Gear VR, they may not give the technology a chance when it is perfected. Hopefully, the upcoming Oculus Rift can correct at least some of the ills of the Gear VR and bring virtual reality to the mainstream.

[“source-huffingtonpost”]