I always kind of wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, but that had less to do with any passion for space travel than it did with one simple fact: astronauts got all the cool toys. Pens that wrote upside down. Freeze dried everything. Tang. Adult diapers that you apparently get to take home with you. The bells and whistles that NASA supplied for it’s intrepid explorers were always second to none. Case in point – this artificial intelligence therapy program.

Created by a former astronaut who now teaches space medicine, the program combines animation, video and audio elements to recreate or summarize difficult or hazardous situations encountered by veteran astronauts. The program is meant to aid in decision making, relationship management and controlling depression in the high pressure environment of a space flight by putting trainees into tough situations and letting their choices make the situation better or worse, a method of training and therapy that should be familiar to anyone who has ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

The results of these tests won’t be available to the public, of course, but in my heart of hearts, I like to believe that astronauts aren’t that different from the rest of us, and that the first round of testing will be devoted to it’s only logical use: seeing how fast you can bring the International Space Station plummeting in a fiery ball back to earth.

And as one means of computerized therapy enters the space age, another goes the way of the dodo as JVC ends production of standalone VCRs, bringing an end to an era in home entertainment. Somewhere, the guy who invented Beta max is smiling grimly and snickering to himself. I shared a lot of good time with a lot of VCRs, from the first time I ever saw Batman to the copy of Pulp Fiction that played perpetually in my first apartment. And as a longtime video store clerk, I get to watch one of my few pragmatic, handyman style skills – dismantling fixing, cleaning and reassembling a VCR – be rendered obsolete before i even turn thirty.

For hardcore VHS fans (you know you’re out there) and those who are just reluctant to own copies of Con Air on two separate formats, you’ll still be able to get combo players that play DVD and VHS formats. But let’s face it – it’s just not the same.

I’ve had friends argue that VHS will never really fade out, and will instead come to fill a home entertainment niche similar to the turntable, becoming a staple in hipster pads everywhere, treasured for it’s retro cool and nigh-indestructible recordings. I see where they’re coming from, especially when it comes to valuing a medium that can take a beating – I’ve seen people take some truly heinous actions against VHS tapes, with no discernible damage to the film, something that DVDs But considering how consolidated home entertainment is becoming, from gaming consoles that double as movie players to directly streaming HD video at your fingertips, even the discreet, archaic, indie charm of the VCR may not be enough to keep it in favor forever.

Rest well, good friend.

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