Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

Toyota will buy back your recalled bZ4X EV

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 16:21

Toyota recalled the bZ4X in June over concerns the electric crossover's wheels could fall off at speed, and now it's taking extra steps to satisfy upset customers and keep vehicles off the road. Electrek has learned (and Engadget has confirmed) that Toyota's US branch is offering to buy back the bZ4X. The terms will vary based on your state and "particular circumstances," according to a letter to customers.

The automaker outlined compensation for those who still want the EV. You can continue to drive a loaner at no cost, complete with free fuel for the temporary car and storage for the bZ4X. You'll also get $5,000 credit towards your loan, lease or full purchase price. There will also be extensions to your warranty and free EVgo charging time.

Toyota is offering the buybacks and other perks "until a remedy is available." The recall also covers pre-orders for Subaru's sibling model, the Solterra, although that SUV hasn't yet reached American buyers.

There's no mention of just when or how Toyota will fix the bZ4X wheel fault. That makes the situation difficult for owners. The buyback gives them a chance to purchase another vehicle rather than wait indefinitely for a fix, but auto industry supply shortages could leave them either waiting months for a replacement or settling for a less-than-ideal alternative.

DreamWorks Animation will open source its MoonRay renderer later this year

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 15:13

DreamWorks has been open sourcing some of its technology in recent years, and now its animation division is preparing to make more tools freely available. DreamWorks Animation said it will release its MoonRay ray-tracing renderer as open-source software later this year. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, DreamWorks will offer up its Arras cloud rendering framework in the code base too.

“We are thrilled to share with the industry over 10 years of innovation and development on MoonRay’s vectorized, threaded, parallel and distributed code base,” Andrew Pearce, DreamWorks vice president of global technology said in a statement. “The appetite for rendering at scale grows each year, and MoonRay is set to meet that need. We expect to see the code base grow stronger with community involvement as DreamWorks continues to demonstrate our commitment to open source."

DreamWorks used MoonRay in movies including How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Croods: A New Age and The Bad Guys, as well as the upcoming Puss In Boots: The Last Wish. It's always welcome to see proprietary software being opened up for anyone to use. Whether dedicated hobbyists can create animation on par with the quality of visuals DreamWorks knocks out remains to be seen, but at least they'll have another helpful tool to add to their belt. If you're interested, you can ask to be considered for early access to MoonRay or sign up for updates.

Stephen Merchant's Porn Star Name Is Tabby King - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 15:00
The co-creator behind The Office preps us for the second season of The Outlaws on Prime Video.

Microsoft helps game devs pull more performance from the Xbox Series S

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 14:49

Frustrated that games don't run as well on the Xbox Series S as you'd expect given the 1440p-capable hardware? Microsoft might have a fix. The Verge has learned the company's recently highlighted June Game Development Kit gives programmers more access to memory, freeing up "hundreds of additional megabytes" of RAM for their games. That can improve graphics performance in titles where limited memory is a problem, Microsoft said.

This move won't put the entry-level console on par with the Xbox Series X, which uses the same CPU but packs a more powerful graphics processor. However, it might reduce bottlenecks that sometimes force developers to run games on Series S at lower resolutions and frame rates. While the Series X has 16GB of RAM (about 13.5GB of it usable), its lower-end counterpart has just 10GB — in practice, devs have just 8GB to themselves. Creators talking to Digital Foundry have complained about the limitations.

If this sounds like a familiar strategy, it should. Microsoft gave more power to Xbox One coders in 2014 when it let them disable Kinect features in games that didn't need the motion controller. In both cases, Microsoft is tweaking available system resources in response to gripes.

It will take time for developers to optimize games, and there's no guarantee this will affect many titles. Don't expect patches that improve the graphics on all your favorite releases. Still, this is a welcome move that could make the Xbox Series S a more viable option if you'd rather not splurge on its pricier counterpart.

Wonky Mars Crater Sure Looks Like an Ear - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 14:29
"Once you see it, it's almost impossible to un-see."

Galaxy Z Fold 4 Pops Up in Amazon Listing Ahead of Samsung Unpacked - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 14:20
The listing offers details on the expected foldable's size and shows off a new S Pen case.

What to Do if You Get Monkeypox: Isolation, Treatment and More - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 13:00
These are the steps to take if you've tested positive, been exposed or are developing symptoms.

Netflix to pay $42 million in dispute over screenwriter compensation

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 12:33

Netflix will have to shell out a hefty sum in a fight over screenwriter pay. As Deadlinereports, the Writers Guild of America has won an arbitration ruling that will have Netflix pay 216 theatrical movie writers an extra $42 million in unpaid residuals. The WGA is also seeking another $13.5 million in interest for late payment.

The WGA accused Netflix of "self-dealing" that helped it skimp on writer pay. Residuals for theatrical releases are supposed to be paid on revenues earned in a given market, according to the guild, and licenses like Netflix's (where it's both the producer and distributor) demand fees based on more conventional relationships — a Sony movie licensed to Netflix, for example. Netflix, however, reportedly negotiated deals with the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) that let it pay residuals on its own movies for "significantly less" than the cost of the film.

The win was helped by an earlier victory over the Sandra Bullock movie Bird Box, the WGA claimed. An arbitrator found that Netflix significantly underpaid a screenwriter using a formula like that from the most recent dispute. The officiator told Netflix to pay the writer $1.2 million in residuals and interest.

We've asked Netflix for comment. The WGA wasn't shy about its criticism, however. It characterized Netflix as one of the "worst violators" of the guild's basic agreements for residuals, and saw the arbitration as a pushback against media companies trying to "depress" pay through streaming services. Don't be surprised if there are more battles like this across the industry.

Amazing Bomberman Is a Dose of Nostalgic Gaming on Apple Arcade - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 12:20
Apple Arcade subscribers can check out this game from Konami today.

FCC votes to boost manufacturing in space

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 12:17

The FCC may have just advanced the industrialization of space. Commissioners have voted in favor of an inquiry that will explore in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM). The move would both help officials understand the demands and risks of current in-space production technology while facilitating new projects. This could help companies build satellites and stations in orbit, for instance, while finding new ways to deal with growing volumes of space debris.

The vote helps open a new "Space Innovation" docket at the FCC. It also comes two days after the regulator updated its rules to create more breathing room for satellite broadband frequencies. Expect considerably more space-related developments going forward, then. 

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel saw the inquiry as vital. Existing rules were made for "another era" where space programs were exclusively government-run, she said. The support ISAM will ideally help the FCC adapt to space tourism, huge private satellite constellations and a larger general shift toward commercial spaceflight.

There's plenty of pressure to act. Blue Origin, Axiom and other companies are building commercial space stations, and even NASA is preparing for a time when it might lease space aboard corporate facilities. In-orbit satellite repairs might also prove crucial in minimizing space junk from a wave of privately-operated satellites. While the FCC is only just starting its efforts, the benefits might last for decades.

UK may use facial recognition smartwatches to monitor migrant criminals

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 12:06

The UK government may soon start using facial recognition smartwatches to monitor migrants who have been convicted of crimes. The offenders would need to scan their faces up to five times per day, according to The Guardian. The measures may come into effect as soon as this fall.

Those subject to the conditions would need to take photos of themselves throughout the day and have their locations tracked around the clock, according to documents obtained by The Guardian. The photos will be compared with ones the Home Office has on file. If the government's systems can’t verify the person’s identity, a manual check would be required. The photos — along with migrants names, nationalities and dates of birth — will be stored for up to six years, under the Home Office and Ministry of Justice plans.

The rules will only apply to foreign nationals who have been convicted of crimes. The UK government reportedly won't monitor others, such as asylum seekers, in this fashion.

In May, the government gave a £6 million ($7.2 million) contract to a company called Buddi Limited to secure “non-fitted devices” to track “specific cohorts” under the Home Office's Satellite Tracking Service. "A non-fitted device solution will provide a more proportionate way of monitoring specific cohorts over extended periods of time than fitted tags," the contract reads. "These devices will utilize periodic biometric verification as an alternative to being fitted to an individual." The number of smartwatches Buddi will supply and the cost of each has been redacted.

The Home Office hasn't explicitly said it will use smartwatches with facial recognition functions to track convicted migrants. A spokesperson told The Guardian that the Home Office will soon implement a “portable biometrically accessed device” that will work alongside ankle tags.

Apple's iPad drops to $299, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 11:45

Now's a great time to pick up Apple's iPad ahead of the upcoming school year. The base, 10.2-inch tablet is $30 off right now and down to $299, which is the best price we've seen it. It may not have all the bells and whistles that the iPad Air does, but it's a solid, budget-friendly tablet that will likely be able to handle anything you throw at it. Elsewhere online, you can pick up the Chromecast with Google TV for only $40 and the Beats Studio Buds for $100. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

10.2-inch iPadApple iPad (2021) review photosNathan Ingraham / Engadget

Apple's base iPad is on sale for $299, while the model with 256GB of storage is $80 off and down to $399. This is the most affordable iPad you can get, and we gave it a score of 86 for its strong performance, Center Stage cameras, first-generation Apple Pencil support and excellent battery life.

Buy iPad (64GB) at Amazon - $299Buy iPad (256GB) at Amazon - $399Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV 4K is back in stock at Amazon and on sale for $120. While not quite as cheap as it was on Prime Day last month ($109), this remains one of the best prices we've seen no our favorite high-end set-top box. We gave the device a score of 90 for its fast performance, Dolby Vision and Atmos support, HomeKit integration and much-improved Siri remote.

Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon - $12016-inch MacBook Pro

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is down to $2,199, or $300 off its usual price. We gave it a score of 92 for its powerful performance, lovely Liquid Retina XDR displays and new bevy of ports.

buy 16-inch MacBook Pro at Amazon - $2,199Chromecast with Google TVChromecast with Google TVEngadget

The Chromecast with Google TV is back on sale for $40, or $10 off its normal price and a record low. We gave the dongle a score of 86 for its 4K HDR content with Dolby Vision and Atmos, its handy integration with the Google Assistant and its easy to use remote.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Amazon - $40Jabra Elite 7 ProJabra Elite 7 ProJabra

Jabra's Elite 7 Pro earbuds are $70 off and down to a new low of $130. These buds are the successors to the excellent 85ts and they use bone conduction tech combined with microphones and algorithms to improve voice quality on calls, plus they have ANC and an 11-hour battery life.

Buy Jabra Elite Pro 7 at Amazon - $130Blink Outdoor + Blink Mini

Amazon includes a free Blink Mini camera when you buy a Blink Outdoor kit, so you'll save $35 in total on the bundle. Blink cameras are a relatively affordable way to outfit your home with security cameras — all of them record 1080p video and support two-way audio and motion alerts. The Outdoor cameras are wireless and weather-resistant, while the Blink Mini is a smaller, wired camera that's designed to fit into tight spaces inside your home.

Buy Blink Outdoor + Blink Mini at Amazon - $100Beats Studio BudsBeats Studio Buds reviewBilly Steele/Engadget

The Beats Studio Buds are back on sale for $100, or $50 off their usual rate. These are some of the best Beats earbuds for most people and we gave them a score of 84 for their comfortable design, good sound quality and ANC and fast pairing with both iOS and Android devices.

Buy Beats Studio Buds at Amazon - $100Sony LinkBuds SSony LinkBuds S in blackSony

Sony's LinkBuds S are on sale for $148, which is 26 percent off and a new all-time low. These buds came out earlier this year and support smart playback, which lets them automatically play and pause music depending on what you're doing.

Buy LinkBuds S at Amazon - $148Samsung Freestyle projectorSamsung FreestyleSamsung

Samsung's Freestyle portable projector is $100 off and down to $798 at Amazon, and just about the same price form Samsung directly. The company debuted this projector at CES earlier this year as a 1.83-pound home theater device with auto focus and auto leveling features, along with a 1080p resolution and support for multiple voice assistants.

Buy Freestyle projector at Amazon - $798Buy Freestyle projector at Samsung - $800PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD

Another one of our favorite PS5 SSDs, the PNY XLR8 CS3040, has dropped to $105. It's an already affordable drive made even better by this sale, and we like its 5,600 MB/s read speeds and its five-year warranty.

Buy PNY XLR8 CS3040 (1TB) at Amazon - $105

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Sun's Upcoming Peak of Sunspot and Solar Flare Activity Could Set Records - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 11:33
The current 11-year solar cycle was supposed to reach a mellow peak of activity in coming years, but NASA now says the prediction may have been way off.

Meta unleashes BlenderBot 3 upon the internet, its most competent chat AI to date

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 11:00

More than half a decade after Microsoft's truly monumental Taye debacle, the incident still stands as stark reminder of how quickly an AI can be corrupted after exposure to the internet's potent toxicity and a warning against building bots without sufficiently robust behavioral tethers. On Friday, Meta's AI Research division will see if its latest iteration of Blenderbot AI can stand up to the horrors of the interwebs with the public demo release of its 175 billion-parameter Blenderbot 3.

A major obstacle currently facing chatbot technology (as well as the natural language processing algorithms that drive them) is one of sourcing. Traditionally, chatbots are trained in highly-curated environments — because otherwise you invariably get a Taye — but that winds up limiting the subjects that it can discuss to those specific ones available in the lab. Conversely, you can have the chatbot pull information from the internet to have access to a broad swath of subjects but could, and probably will, go full Nazi at some point. 

"Researchers can’t possibly predict or simulate every conversational scenario in research settings alone," Meta AI researchers wrote in a Friday blog post. "The AI field is still far from truly intelligent AI systems that can understand, engage, and chat with us like other humans can. In order to build models that are more adaptable to real-world environments, chatbots need to learn from a diverse, wide-ranging perspective with people 'in the wild.'" 

Meta has been working to address the issue since it first introduced the BlenderBot 1 chat app in 2020. Initially little more than an open-source NLP experiment, by the following year, BlenderBot 2 had learned both to remember information it had discussed in previous conversations and how to search the internet for additional details on a given subject. BlenderBot 3 takes those capabilities a step further by not just evaluating the data it pulls from the web but also the people it speaks with.  

When a user logs an unsatisfactory response from the system— currently hovering around 0.16 percent of all training responses — Meta works the feedback from the user back into the model to avoid it repeating the mistake. The system also employs the Director algorithm which first generates a response using training data, then runs the response through a classifier to check if it fits within a user feedback-defined scale of right and wrong. 

"To generate a sentence, the language modeling and classifier mechanisms must agree," the team wrote. "Using data that indicates good and bad responses, we can train the classifier to penalize low-quality, toxic, contradictory, or repetitive statements, and statements that are generally unhelpful." The system also employs a separate user-weighting algorithm to detect unreliable or ill-intentioned responses from the human conversationalist — essentially teaching the system to not trust what that person has to say. 

"Our live, interactive, public demo enables BlenderBot 3 to learn from organic interactions with all kinds of people," the team wrote. "We encourage adults in the United States to try the demo, conduct natural conversations about topics of interest, and share their responses to help advance research."

BB3 is expected to speak more naturally and conversationally than its predecessor, in part, thanks to its massively upgraded OPT-175B language model, which stands nearly 60 times larger than BB2's model. "We found that, compared with BlenderBot 2, BlenderBot 3 provides a 31 percent improvement in overall rating on conversational tasks, as evaluated by human judgments," the team said. "It is also judged to be twice as knowledgeable, while being factually incorrect 47 percent less of the time. Compared with GPT3, on topical questions it is found to be more up-to-date 82 percent of the time and more specific 76 percent of the time."

2023 Volkswagen ID 4 Gets Small Styling Changes - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 11:00
There's a new entry-level version with a smaller battery, too.

Facebook Parent Meta Is Asking You to Help Train Its New AI-Powered Chatbot - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 11:00
US adults can contribute to the company's AI research by chatting with the bot on a public website.

Save On Echo and Smart Plug Bundle, Plus Up to 70% Off Other Amazon Devices - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2022-08-05 10:46
Prime Day may be over, but with prices on popular Amazon products starting at $12, there's still a chance to cash in on a great deal.

‘GoldenEye 007’ fans are creating a full game mod based on ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’

Engadget - Fri, 2022-08-05 10:45

There's a mod in the works for Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye 007 that turns another James Bond film into a full game. Fans are building a playable version of The Spy Who Loved Me, Roger Moore's third, and some would argue best, Bond movie.

As spotted by EuroGamer, YouTuber Graslu00 posted a playthrough video showing 11 levels of The Spy Who Loved Me 64. The mod depicts the key events and locations of the film, taking Bond from the Alps to the pyramids of Egypt and a supertanker in the Atlantic Ocean. It includes Moore's likeness, as well as characters such as Anya Amasova (aka Agent XXX) and villain Karl Stromberg. It's possible to run the mod on an emulator in 4K at 60 frames per second, though you can also play it on an N64 console.

It's a work in progress, as Graslu00 notes. The build of The Spy Who Loved Me 64 that's available on N64 Vault is a demo of the first three levels with a peek at a planned four-player multiplayer mode. It looks like there's quite a way for the fans working on the game to go, though. The stage select screen shows 20 levels including, curiously, Bond's childhood home of Skyfall — that seems to be one of the multiplayer maps.

Meanwhile, there's an official James Bond title in the works. It emerged in late 2020 that Hitman studio IO Interactive is developing a game that delves into the superspy's origins. It's expected to be the first official Bond game since 2012's 007 Legends.