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Updated: 53 min 36 sec ago

Pick up one of our favorite Anker USB-C hubs for only $40

Thu, 2024-04-11 12:24

One of our favorite Anker USB-C hubs is on sale for $40 via Amazon. The Anker 555 is typically $50, so this is a discount of 20 percent. This is one of the best hubs money can buy, even at its original price. It made our list of the best MacBook accessories, but it’s a mighty fine addition to any PC.

The Anker 555 USB-C hub gives you eight ports to connect just about anything under the sun. There’s two USB-A ports, one HDMI port, SD and microSD card slots, one Ethernet jack and two USB-C ports. One of the USB-C ports provides 85W of power to charge various devices, including laptop computers.

It can handle up to 10 Gbps file transfers and can connect to a 4K/60Hz monitor via the HDMI slot. It’s also extremely portable, making it easy to just throw in a bag until you need it. To that end, it ships with a nice little travel pouch. We wrote that the Anker 555 “has enough power and versatility to be the only laptop hub you need.”

The sale extends to other Anker hubs, if the 555 doesn’t do it for you. The simply-named Anker USB C Hub also costs $40, which is a discount of 15 percent. It comes with 10 ports, including 4K HDMI, 1080p VGA, USB-C, USB-A, Ethernet and a 100W USB-C charging port. There’s also a slot for SD cards. The transfer speed is a bit slower here, however, at 5 Gbps.

Finally, there’s the Anker 565. This hub costs $59 as part of this sale, which is a massive discount of 41 percent. It kicks things up a notch, with 11 available ports. These include a 10 Gbps USB-C data port, a 10 Gbps USB-A data port, a 4K HDMI port, a 4K DisplayPort, a 100W USB-C input port for charging devices, two 480 Mbps USB-A data ports, an Ethernet port, an AUX port and microSD card slots. It also allows for multi-monitor setups, thanks to the aforementioned DisplayPort and HDMI port options.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/pick-up-one-of-our-favorite-anker-usb-c-hubs-for-only-40-162451076.html?src=rss

Sony's new ULT Bluetooth speakers are bringing back the '90s bass boost button

Thu, 2024-04-11 12:00

Sony just announced a trio of new speakers in a new line of audio products called the ULT Power Series. This is an attempt by the company to reduce some of the clutter involved with its naming conventions, so say goodbye to the Extra Bass and XE-Series products. Both lines are being wrapped up into the ULT Power Series branding. To suit this new branding, each of the following speakers include something called the ULT button, which provides a bass boost.

The ULT Field 1 is your standard portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s compact and comes in a variety of colors, including black, white, gray and orange. The battery lasts around 12 hours per charge and the casing is IP67 water resistant, dustproof and shockproof. Like many of these ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers, the design lets users stand it on its end or lay it on its side, to make use of space. There’s also a built-in mic for hands-free calling. This speaker costs $130 and will be available later this spring at major retail outlets.

Two Sony speakers.Sony

The ULT Field 7 is basically a beefier version of the Field 1. It’s bigger, though still portable, and includes two dedicated ULT buttons. One provides deeper bass in the lower frequency range and the other brings a powerful, punchy bass. There’s also plenty of ambient LED lighting that synchronizes with the music.

The battery lasts 30 hours, which is a fantastic metric, and includes quick-charging capabilities. It’s also being advertised as a karaoke machine, thanks to the built-in microphone port. Finally, Sony says people can string together up to 100 of these things to make a cacophony of noise that’ll really annoy the pants off of their neighbors. Those neighbors, however, are likely to live in a glorious mansion, as just one Field 7 costs $500. They go on sale later this spring.

A Sony speaker.Sony

The ULT Tower 10 is, as the name suggests, a Bluetooth tower speaker intended for living spaces. This speaker wirelessly connects to stereo systems and TVs for enhanced audio and includes the same two ULT bass boost buttons found with the Field 7. There’s also a sound optimization feature that detects local noise and adjusts the settings to accommodate the surroundings.

The speaker boasts omni-directional synchronized lighting, which Sony says “makes listeners feel like they are at a music festival.” There are two microphone inputs for belting out karaoke duets and the speaker actually ships with one wireless mic. Listeners can also connect up to 100 compatible speakers at once, including the Field 7. This is one expensive tower speaker, however, so it’ll set you back $1,200 when it releases later in the season.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sonys-new-ult-bluetooth-speakers-are-bringing-back-the-90s-bass-boost-button-160056401.html?src=rss

Sony ULT Wear headphones review: Brain-shaking bass

Thu, 2024-04-11 12:00

Sony’s Extra Bass line of headphones has given listeners an added dose of low-end tone for years, and was generally cheaper than its high-end 1000X cans. The company is still keen on offering brain-rattling bass to those who want it, but the Extra Bass moniker and its confusing alpha-numeric product names are gone (more to come on that change). Today, Sony is introducing ULT Power Sound, a feature it’s calling the “ultimate step into the evolution” of its portable audio gear. 

ULT Power Sound will also be available on Bluetooth speakers of various sizes, but the first headphones to feature the new audio direction are the ULT Wear ($200). A direct replacement for the WH-B910, the ULT Wear contains 40mm drivers that Sony says are specifically designed for deeper bass. If the stock tuning isn’t enough, there’s a ULT button for two more levels of low-end boost. Plus, the company crammed in some of its best features from more-expensive headphones: the V1 audio chip, 30-hour battery life, Quick Attention mode, 360 Reality Audio with head tracking and more.

The first thing I noticed about the ULT Wear is its design. These headphones don’t immediately strike me as less-than-premium cans. The matte white finish on my review unit helps mask the mostly plastic construction which looked cheap on previous products like the WH-CH720N. It’s definitely a more refined aesthetic than the WH-XB910 that’s being replaced. There are certainly some nods to the premium 1000X line in a few areas, like the curves of the ear cups and headband.

Sony decided on a mix of physical and touch controls for the ULT Wear, which is another way it’s bridging the gap between its most affordable and most expensive headphones. On the edge of the left ear cup is a power/pairing button and a control for cycling between active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound modes. Further up along the bottom is a third button for ULT bass boost. This item switches between off, ULT 1 (deep bass) and ULT 2 (more powerful sound with deep bass). Over on the right, the outside of the ear cup has a touch panel that you can tap and swipe on for playback controls, volume adjustments and calls.

As the ULT Wear sits in the middle of Sony’s headphone lineup, it has a few of the handy features from the 1000X line that the company’s cheaper options don’t employ. For example, placing your open hand over the right ear cup activates Quick Attention mode that lowers the volume so you can respond to a co-worker or grab your cortado without pausing your tunes. Adaptive Sound Control is here as well: Sony’s long-standing tool that automatically adjusts the headphone’s settings based on your activity or location. General niceties like multipoint Bluetooth and wear detection are present too. The convenient Speak-to-Chat function from more-recent 1000X headphones isn’t available though, which is a considerable omission in terms of overall utility.

Controls detail of a set of white headphones with 3.5mm jack and USB-C port near power, ANC and ULT buttons.Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Bass reigns supreme for the ULT Wear’s tuning and you certainly get a heavy dose of it. Those new specifically tuned drivers muster a lot of low-end thump before you even start exploring the ULT boosts. The out-of-the-box level was good enough for me for most genres, although the overall sound can get muddy with more chaotic styles like metal and some synth-heavy electronic tracks. For the most part though, the stock bass provides depth and range that complements full mids and cutting highs.

On Bayside’s There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive, there’s a thundering kick drum to drive the punk-tinged indie rock tunes, but the texture of the crunchy distorted guitars stands out and vocals cut through clearly. Plus, you can add Sony’s DSEE upscaling through its app, a software trick that’s designed to recover sonic elements lost to compression. And if you have access to 360 Reality Audio content, the ULT Wear supports head-tracking so that sounds stay put when you move. This offers a more realistic experience since the immersive audio in this format would otherwise move with your head.

When you hop into the ULT boost modes, things are a mixed bag. Sony has done bass boost better than most other companies here, as songs are still actually listenable across musical styles rather than just becoming a muffled mess. ULT 1, the option for deeper bass, is the best in my opinion. You don’t lose much detail using it and things like kick drums are still punchy throughout. Hip-hop tracks are a better canvas, with songs like Killer Mike’s “Down By Law” blasting bombastic, yet finessed, amplified bass. His album Michael is one of the better-sounding selections I tested with ULT 1 enabled.

ULT 2, a setting for more powerful sound alongside even deeper bass, isn’t great. During my tests, I didn’t find a single track where I thought it sounded good across driving low-end styles like hip-hop and EDM. It sounds like you’re standing in front of the subwoofer at a concert where bass is most prominent and everything else gets drowned out. And while I’m sure some people enjoy that extent of brain rattling, it’s not what I’m looking for.

Headband and ear cup detail of a set of white headphones showing speaker grille design.Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Sony improved ANC from the WH-XB910 by installing its V1 audio processor from the 1000X series in the ULT Wear. The result is noticeably improved noise-canceling performance for a set of $200 headphones, but you shouldn’t expect distraction-blocking as robust as what the WH-1000XM5 offers. It’s good in most situations, but in some scenarios it simply dulls the roar. The ULT Wear does, however, do a decent job with human voices – much better than the Sennheiser Accentum Plus I recently reviewed.

The company didn’t go out of its way to discuss call quality on the ULT Wear, but the performance here is slightly above average. It’s not pristine, but it also doesn’t have the obvious speaker phone sound most headphones do. Low-to-mid-volume background noise is also dealt with nicely. Ambient sound mode on the ULT Wear is more natural that what most headphones offer, save for the AirPods Max. You can hear a good amount of your own voice, so you’re free to speak at a normal volume during calls. And any sounds from your surroundings come through clear, so you don’t have to worry about not hearing alerts or announcements.

Sony says you can expect up to 30 hours of battery life with ANC on or up to 50 hours with it off. The company doesn’t specify if either of the ULT modes impact longevity, and I didn’t have them on long enough to tell. After 20 hours of use with mostly ANC and several instances of ambient sound for calls, both used at around 50-60 percent volume (trust me that’s plenty loud here), Sony’s app was showing 44 percent battery left. This is more efficient than the stated figure, but I’ll update this review when the full rundown is complete.

If you crave a deep bassy thump that most headphones haven't been able to deliver, the ULT Wear does a much better job boosting low-end tone than Sony’s previous efforts. The sound out of the box is certainly boomy, but not at the cost of any detail, and the company gives you the option to add two more servings of bass when you crave it. These won’t be for everyone as a lot of people will prefer the more even-handed tuning of Sennheiser’s Accentum Plus in the $200 range. However, Sony has done well to dress up a more affordable set of headphones as a premium product, in terms of both looks and features.

The ULT Wear headphones are available in black, white and green color options for $200. Sony says they'll start shipping sometime this spring. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sony-ult-wear-headphones-review-brain-shaking-bass-160000739.html?src=rss

You can now listen to Substack podcasts on Spotify

Thu, 2024-04-11 11:00

Substack shows are now on Spotify. The partnership lets Substack podcast creators add Spotify distribution for their programs with only “a few clicks.” The move could boost the streamer’s library after scaling back its exclusive podcast ambitions last year in favor of broader distribution — including a non-exclusive contract renewal with noted vaccine aficionado Joe Rogan.

When listening on Spotify, you’ll see a padlock (or “Paid” tag, where applicable) next to Substack podcasts. You’ll need to link your Substack account before you can begin listening.

Some Substack podcasts are free, and you can listen to those immediately after linking accounts. For paid programs, you’ll still need to pony up for those on Substack before you can hear them on Spotify. (The move is less about giving you freebies and more about expanding Substack’s audience.) But you don’t need Spotify Premium; you can listen to the same Substack content whether you’re on a free or paid Spotify plan.

Spotify says podcast creators retain complete control of their content, subscriber bases and revenue. When setting it up, podcast makers need to choose an option to sync with Spotify in their Creator Account settings. That will instantly make all of their current and future programming available on the streaming platform.

The partnership is built on the Spotify Open Access API, which publishers like Calm, The Economist, Freakonomics Radio, Patreon, Dateline NBC and The Wall Street Journal also use to tap into the music platform’s listener base. It’s easy to see the appeal for creators: Spotify reported 602 million monthly active users and 236 million premium subscribers at the end of 2023.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/you-can-now-listen-to-substack-podcasts-on-spotify-150046948.html?src=rss

iPhones will soon be repairable with genuine used components, but parts pairing persists

Thu, 2024-04-11 10:29

Apple, a company that talks a big game about sustainability but would love for you to buy a new iPhone every year, is expanding its self-repair program. Consumers and repair shops will soon be able to employ genuine used Apple parts to fix devices rather than having to order brand-new components. The company claims that used parts "will now benefit from the full functionality and security afforded by the original factory calibration, just like new genuine Apple parts."

The initiative will start this fall with iPhone 15 and newer models, according to The Washington Post. So if your iPhone has a busted screen and you have one of the same model with a display that's intact, you'll be able to switch in the panel and it should work. As things stand, if you swap in a used screen from another iPhone, certain features, such as True Tone or automatic brightness adjustment, may not work. The upgraded self-repair program should resolve that.

The program will also cover parts like batteries, cameras and (eventually) Face ID sensors. In addition, consumers and repair shops won't have to provide Apple with a device serial number when ordering most parts from the Self Service Repair Store — they'll still need to do so for a logic board replacement.

Users are already able to see whether their iPhone has been repaired and, if so, which parts have been replaced. Starting this fall, those who access the Parts and Service History section of their iPhone settings will be able to see if a replacement part is new or a genuine used one from another iPhone.

Apple will use a "parts pairing" process directly on the phone to detect whether a replacement component is genuine. It says that's necessary to maintain the "privacy, security, and safety of iPhone."

To that end, Apple will be employing its Activation Lock feature to try and dissuade the use of parts from stolen iPhones for repairs. If a device that's being fixed detects that a replacement part was taken from one where Activation Lock or Lost Mode was enabled, Apple will restrict calibration for that part, so it may not work properly.

On one hand, this shift could make it easier for folks to repair a busted iPhone (or eventually another Apple product) if they have a spare with the necessary parts on hand. Repair shops often have bits and bobs culled from many different units that they'll be able to use. That said, this could be seen as Apple attempting to exert more control over the repair process by employing pairing and potentially edging out third-party aftermarket parts.

The company's senior vice president of hardware engineering John Ternus told the Post that while Apple supports the use of third-party parts in repairs (as long as the device owner is aware of that), it doesn't know how to properly calibrate such components as it would for its own parts.

However, Apple might have to start getting in touch with aftermarket parts manufacturers and figuring out how to do that. A right-to-repair bill that Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed into law last month bans the practice of parts pairing. The idea is to prevent device manufacturers from using that process to stop consumers and repair shops from using third-party components to fix their gizmos. The law will apply to devices built after January 1, 2025.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/iphones-will-soon-be-repairable-with-genuine-used-components-but-parts-pairing-persists-142958993.html?src=rss

Smart rings are meant to be invisible, and that’s the problem

Thu, 2024-04-11 10:09

Sometimes, you’re in bed and the glow from your smart ring’s optical heart rate sensor creeps into your peripheral vision. It got me thinking about how Samsung (and potentially Apple) will join the smart ring market, and why that’s a terrible idea. You see, these companies want devices that make their presence known in your life, embedding themselves in your routine. But smart rings blend into the background on purpose, which limits how much you can, or will want, to do with them.

Back in February, Samsung announced the Galaxy Ring, a health-tracking wearable baked into a ring. When it launches later this year, it will continuously monitor your sleep, breathing, movement and reproductive cycle. Entirely coincidentally, I’m sure, Bloomberg reported Apple was also conducting investigations into its own smart ring platform. Both companies are not-so secretly gunning for the Oura Ring, the market leader in finger-worn wearables. And I’ve been testing one of these for a long while.

Oura tracks your sleep, temperature, activity, post-exertion recovery and menstrual cycle. It’s a marvel of engineering to get so much technology into such a small and elegant package. The downside, if you can call it that, is there’s no way to access the data the ring collects, or its insights, unless you have a phone on hand.

But here’s the thing: It’s not that often I find myself actually opening the app to see what the stats are saying. If I wake up feeling like crap, there’s normally a self-evident reason why that needs no further explanation. And on those rare occasions when I wake up and don’t know why I’m feeling bad, the last thing that would occur to me is to check my phone. Who wants to look at fine-grain data when your head is pounding and your eyes refuse to focus?

That friction, that small gap between having the information there and it being easily accessible is a problem. Yeah, you can get a notification if your "Readiness Score" — Oura's proprietary metric for overall health — falls below a certain level. But I’ve been using this thing for long enough that I’ve never taken up the habit, and I suspect others would struggle to do so, too. It’s nice to have that information on those rare occasions when I’m thinking enough about it to look at my data over a longer period of time. But I can’t imagine myself looking at this data once or twice a day.

It’s also not that useful for workout tracking, principally because you won’t want to risk your $300 gadget in the gym. The first time I took it to work out, I picked up a pair of metal dumbbells, realized their knurled handles were rubbing against the metal of the ring and quickly took it off.

Because there’s no direct method of input, it’s far too easy to forget it’s there and not make use of its information. If you’re all-in on using a ring to track your fitness because you won’t wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and you’re always checking your stats, then it’ll work for you. But, deep down, I prefer a watch with a display that’s easy enough to check as a matter of instinct. And it’s this that I think should be a concern for Samsung and, potentially, Apple, as they look to move into this space. A smart ring caters to a niche inside a niche – quantified self obsessives who refuse to wear a watch. They obviously believe that’s enough of a draw to devote time and money to building their own, but I’m not sure it’ll be a blockbuster.

Not to mention these rings only have a few hooks to keep users inside their specific corporate bubble. Both Apple and Samsung have dedicated health-tracking apps and it’s likely whoever buys one of these will have one fewer reason to switch providers in future. But compare that to the watches, which offer health tracking, messaging, app interactions and mobile payments. Smartwatches are beneficial to these platforms because they help draw together various features from the phone. Rings do not.

Perhaps this is another sight tech’s biggest players now just need to copy and destroy their smaller rivals rather than striving for new products. Smart rings cater to a small market, albeit one that big tech could dominate with very little time and effort. Especially given the strength of their relative brands, which means these devices will more or less sell themselves to diehard fans. But is that all a new product can be in 2024, and is that what we could or should expect these companies to be doing?

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/smart-rings-are-meant-to-be-invisible-and-thats-a-bad-thing-140927134.html?src=rss

Instagram will test nudity protection in messages to fight sextortion

Thu, 2024-04-11 09:15

Instagram is far from a gleaming example of protecting young people online, having failed to prevent its algorithm from promoting child sexual abuse material. But new features bring some (at least a little?) hope that the platform could become a bit safer. Meta announced it's rolling out new tools meant to protect users against intimate image abuse and sextortion — when a person is digitally blackmailed under threat of sharing intimate media.

One of the most significant updates is that nudity protection is coming to private messages. Meta first confirmed it was building this technology back in 2022, and it will automatically activate the tool for users under 18. Once switched on, a machine learning tool will detect and blur images it suspects of containing nudity for the recipient. The analysis happens on the user's device, so messages should remain end-to-end encrypted without Meta ever having access to them. Users will have the option to view the image alongside a pop-up message from Meta that they shouldn't feel pressured to respond, along with a safety tips button and an option to block the sender. 

Meta's new tool — which it will start testing "soon" — also detects if a person is sending a nude image and warns them to "take care when sharing sensitive photos" while outlining potential risks. Plus, it reminds users that they can delete a message before anyone sees it. Then there's the final warning: a reminder to be responsible and respectful appears when someone tries to forward a message with detected nudity (though it still lets the image be forwarded).

Then there are the tools designed to detect potential scammers or sextortionists and make it more difficult for them to approach teens. Message requests from these possible bad actors should now go to hidden requests, and anyone already involved in a conversation will receive a warning with boundary reminders and steps to report users. As for young people, Meta previously barred people from messaging users 16 or under if they weren't mutually connected — even if the other account claimed to be the same age. Now, these potential scammers won't see the option to message a teen even if they follow each other.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/instagram-will-test-nudity-protection-in-messages-to-fight-sextortion-131516318.html?src=rss

DJI Avata 2 FPV drone review: A cheaper, more potent tool for creators

Thu, 2024-04-11 09:00

When DJI’s Avata came out in 2022, its agility and people-safe propeller guards made it an instant hit — especially with video pros and content creators. It was hampered by poor video quality, though, and gave users no ability to see the outside world when using the Goggles 2 pilot headset. It was also less maneuverable than other FPV drones and quite expensive.

Now, the company has released its successor, the Avata 2. The camera now uses the same 1/1.3-inch sensor as the Mini 4 Pro, so video quality is highly improved. The Goggles 3 have passthrough cameras to show the world around you and the Avata 2 can now maneuver more like a real FPV drone. Battery life has improved and it’s cheaper to boot.

It sounds great, but how is it in the real world? With my drone and FPV pilot friends, we tested it in a variety of scenarios and events. In general, it's much improved from its predecessor, but there are a few things to know if you’re considering buying one, especially around the Goggles 3.

Body

The Avata 2 has been completely redesigned to improve flight characteristics. It’s more oblong, less top-heavy, comes with a bigger battery and weighs 30 grams less at just 377 grams. It also just looks less toy-like and more professional.

The updated propeller guards and extensive obstacle detection make it far more crash-resistant than other drones. Updated binocular fisheye sensors cover both the bottom and rear views to detect hazards while increasing flight stability. It also features a “turtle mode” that flips the drone back to a normal stance for takeoff if it hits something and flips over during flight.

The propellers have the same 3-inch size as before, but engine noise is reduced to 81dB, making it more suitable for events like weddings.

 Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

The camera unit and gimbal are larger and the protective covering is easier to install and remove. The USB-C and card slots, notoriously hard to access on the Avata, are much easier to get to here. Another welcome update is the generous 46GB of onboard storage, more than double the last model and considerably higher than most other drones.

The 18-minute battery life was a big issue with the Avata, but the new model now boasts 23 minutes max flight time, up 28 percent. The batteries can be charged quickly using the charging hub, too, from 0 to 100 percent in 45 minutes with a 60W charger — a bit faster than before, considering the higher capacity. The hub also supports DJI’s new power accumulation feature, letting you completely drain the two weakest batteries to transfer power to the strongest.

Transmission and controls

Like the Mini 4 Pro and Air 3, the Avata uses DJI’s latest O4 transmission system that boosts range to 13km in the US and 10km in Europe — impressive for an FPV drone. It streams a 1080p video feed at up to 100 fps, with latency as low as 24 milliseconds using the Googles 3.

 Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

Speaking of, the Goggles 3 have a built-in battery like the Goggles Integra while updating to O4 capability. Along with the improved transmission, they now come with higher-resolution 1080p MicroOLED displays and improved eye comfort compared to the Goggles 2 that shipped with the original Avata.

The big update, though, is the Real View pass-through cameras. With a double tap on the side of the headset or side button on the RC Motion 3 controller, you’ll instantly switch to a forward view outside the Goggles 3. The resolution isn’t very high, but at least you can see outside without removing them. A setting allows you to see the drone view as a picture-in-picture to boost situational awareness.

The Goggles 3 now allows you to capture up to 1080p video directly to a microSD card on the headset itself and you can even stream live to another Goggles 3 headset simultaneously. Video quality is still higher when capturing directly to the drone, of course, but it does provide a backup. You can also record a view showing the on-screen controls — handy for reviewing flights.

Another new feature is head tracking to control the aircraft and gimbal with head functions, allowing better control for experienced pilots.

 Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

There are a few downsides. It still doesn’t support glasses, so folks with astigmatism will need to purchase custom lenses. If you have the Goggles V2, which does support eyeglasses, it’s unfortunately not compatible with the Avata 2.

DJI hasn’t quite nailed the comfort part, either. The padding isn’t soft enough, so the edges pushed against the bridge of my nose, creating some discomfort. It was better after installing the additional (included) pad, but still not perfect.

The RC Motion 3 controller has been considerably revamped for the better. It’s smaller, lighter and has a more comfortable grip. Controls are also more precise, with a new sidelink wireless solution boosting the quality of the joystick’s signal. And for FPV enthusiasts who prefer a classic drone controller, the Avata 2 also works with the new FPV Remote Control 3.

Performance  Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

Where the original Avata dumbed down FPV performance, the Avata 2 goes all in. It’s incredibly maneuverable, and unlike most FPV drones, highly crash-resistant.

Maximum speeds are the same as the Avata at around 60MPH in manual mode with obstacle detection turned off. That might be slower than purpose-built open-propeller FPVs, but it’s fast for a consumer product and won’t slice up bystanders like regular drones.

Though it’s not faster, it’s quicker and more precise than the Avatar thanks to the slimmed-down and better-balanced body. It turns on a dime around obstacles and climbs and descends with alacrity. At the same time, you can plow through small twigs or leaves and barely slow down.

Flying it is truly fun. The improved Goggles 3 with O4 give a clearer view, and the Motion 3 controller allows for precise and intuitive control. For events around people, you can fly in normal or beginner modes for safety, or elsewhere at 35 or 60 MPH in sport and manual modes.

 Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

The Motion 3 adds a new trigger setting that rotates the Avata 2 in place for easier maneuvers and it now includes a dedicated mode button for normal or sport flying. The joystick is larger and the controller more responsive and precise overall.

Head tracking is a common feature on FPV and Cinewoop drones, and it now works on the Avata 2. I found it helpful mainly for controlling the camera tilt, as it’s a natural way to adjust that parameter.

If you want to fly the Avata 2 at top speed in manual mode, you’ll need the FPV Remote Controller 3, which is sold separately for $199.

The Easy Acro mode is cool, but a bit cumbersome since you have to switch it on and off. Also, it’s so easy to implement with the RC Motion controller that it's almost... boring. Tricks include slides, 180-degree drifts and flips, though you can’t record video in flip mode.

DJI Avata 2 reviewSteve Dent for Engadget

The Avata 2 is better than before in stiff winds, but can still get buffeted around and often has to lean against the breeze, causing choppy or unlevel footage. Keeping things smooth, particularly outdoors, requires more practice than with a drone like the Mini 4 Pro.

It doesn’t have forward-facing sensors, so its main protection is the prop guards and high durability. It does detect obstacles from the rear and below, and that kept me safe in some tight spots. I still crashed it at least four to five times though, luckily just in the grass or against small twigs and leaves — without leaving a scratch. This could make some pilots overconfident, though.

Battery life is noticeably better than the Avata and eliminates much of the range anxiety typical with FPV drones. However, you only get 18-20 minutes of realistic range. Most serious pilots will want to have at least three batteries with the Fly-More kit, and preferably more.

Video

The Avata 2 eliminates the Avata’s mediocre video quality via a much larger 1/1.3-inch sensor with 10-bit D-LogM capability borrowed from the Mini 4 Pro.

As before it offers normal, wide and ultra-wide shooting with up to a 155-degree field of view. It has two stabilization modes, RockSteady 3.0 and HorizonSteady. The latter is best if you want to keep things level, particularly in high winds — it does tend to lean into wind. RockSteady smooths footage more while allowing the camera to tilt, all the better to show off thrilling maneuvers.

DJI Avata 2 fpv drone review

It supports 4K video at up to 60 fps or 1080p and 2.7K at 120 fps. However, it can only capture 12-megapixel JPEG stills, so it’s not ideal for photography.

All that puts it leaps ahead of the Avata for video. Images are generally sharper and colors more accurate. The 10-bit D-LogM mode allows for higher dynamic range in bright or contrasty conditions. The one quality flaw I noticed was occasionally blockiness in video at 4K 60p when flying fast, likely artifacts due to the 130Mbps bit rate (beware of re-encoding for YouTube).

It’s much improved in low light for cityscapes or interiors as well thanks to the larger sensor. It’s not up to the level of a mirrorless camera, but as with the Mini 4 Pro, it’s fine for well lit night scenes in most cases. ISO levels are usable up to 12800 with noise reduction, with the 25600 max setting being for emergency use only.

Wrap-up  Improved video makes it a potent tool for creatorsSteve Dent for Engadget

The Avata 2 is bound to be another hit for DJI. It eliminates nearly every flaw on the Avata, boosting picture quality, FPV maneuverability, battery life, range and more. Video quality, in particular, will make it even more desirable for content creators, event videographers and others (my pro friends, who already own the Avata, are planning to order one). At the same time, it’s a fantastic FPV drone for beginners — just super fun to use.

It’s also more affordable. The Avata 2 is priced at $1,000 with a single battery in the Fly-More kit with the Goggles 3 and Motion 3 controller, or $1,200 with three batteries, the two-way charging hub and a carrying case. That compares to original $1,388 price for the Avata with Goggles and Motion Controller, plus another $279 for the 2-battery/charger Fly-More kit (for $1,667 total) — so the Avata 2 is nearly $500 cheaper in that configuration. As mentioned, the FPV Remote Controller 3 is $199, while the ND Filters Set is $79.

The Avata 2 doesn’t have much competition, as regular FPV drones generally lack propeller guards and rivals like Autel don’t offer similar products. That doesn’t really matter, though, as DJI’s latest drone is both powerful and attractively priced — making it a highly desirable product for creators of all stripes.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/dji-avata-2-fpv-drone-review-a-cheaper-more-potent-tool-for-creators-130052278.html?src=rss

Uber makes its safety tools easier to access and customize

Thu, 2024-04-11 08:30

Plenty of women who use rideshare services regularly send details of their trips to loved ones and take other precautionary measures, especially at night. Now, Uber is putting all its safety tools in one place, making them easier to access and allowing users to customize them so that they'd automatically switch on. In the app's new safety preferences section, passengers can choose to schedule when its safety tools should automatically get activated, whether it's for every ride after 9PM, on the weekends or only for rides that begin within 50 meters of a bar or a restaurant. They can also ensure that Uber's safety features are active for every single ride they take if they want to. 

One of the tools passengers can activate in the new portal is audio recording, which the company introduced some time ago. Uber assures users that those recordings are encrypted and can't be accessed by anyone, even by the company. However, if something happens during the trip, passengers can choose to report an incident and share the recording with Uber for proof. Users can also switch on PIN verification so that they can be sure they're getting into the right vehicle, as well as RideCheck, which helps Uber detect if a ride goes off-course or stops unexpectedly. Finally, there's Share My Trip, allowing passengers to automatically share their live location and trip details with trusted contacts. 

At the moment, the new safety preferences page is only live in the US, Canada and Latin American countries, but the company plans to expand its availability to more regions. To access the new portal, users can go to Settings and find a link to it or tap the Safety Toolkit blue shield while on a trip and then tap "Set up safety preferences."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/uber-makes-its-safety-tools-easier-to-access-and-customize-123036849.html?src=rss

DuckDuckGo unveils a $10 Privacy Pro plan with a no-log VPN

Thu, 2024-04-11 08:00

Many web browser companies offer VPNs these days, including Google, Mozilla and Opera. DuckDuckGo is the latest to join the fray, with a Privacy Pro plan that includes three services. Along with a VPN, you'll get personal information removal and identity theft restoration services for $10 per month or $100 per year. The subscription is only available in the US for now. The Privacy Pro features are built directly into the DuckDuckGo browser, so you won't need to install separate apps.

DuckDuckGo says it won't keep VPN logs in order to help maintain user privacy. As such, it says it has "no way to tie what you do while connected to the DuckDuckGo VPN to you as an individual — or to anything else you do on DuckDuckGo, like searching." DuckDuckGo is using the open-source WireGuard protocol to encrypt your traffic and route it through VPN servers. As it stands, the company has VPN servers across the US, Europe and Canada. It plans to add more over time.

Screenshot of DuckDuckGo's VPN feature.DuckDuckGo

One subscription will cover up to five desktop and mobile devices. Rather than using an account, you'll have a random ID that you'll need to keep safe. If you wish, you can add an email address for easier authorization across devices. Still, you won't need to hand over any personally identifiable information to DuckDuckGo — the company is using Stripe, Google Play and the Apple App Store to handle payments.

DuckDuckGo's focus on protecting user privacy extends to the personal information removal tool, which removes details such as your full name, home address and birthday from people search sites and data broker services. The details you provide during the setup process stay on your device and requests to remove your personal information start directly from your desktop (for now, you need a Windows or Mac computer to set up and manage the personal information removal tool).

DuckDuckGo says this is a first for a service of its ilk, as your details aren't stored on remote servers. To help it build the tool, DuckDuckGo bought data removal service Removaly in 2022. The personal information removal service will regularly re-scan people search sites and data brokers to see if your info pops up again so you can dela with it accordingly.

As for the identity theft restoration service, DuckDuckGo will connect you with an advisor from Iris, its partner, if your identity is stolen. The advisor will help with restoring any stolen accounts and financial losses, as well as fixing your credit report. Moreover, they can help you cancel and replace important documents such as your driver’s license, bank cards and passport. Iris can also provide you with a cash advance if you're far from home and stuck due to identity theft. 

Again, you won't have to provide any of your personal information up front. You'll only need to provide an advisor with those details if you need help after having your identity stolen.

Expanding privacy protections through these services is a logical way for DuckDuckGo to try and boost its bottom line. Privacy Pro seems reasonably priced compared to some of the alternatives too — Mozilla's personal information removal service alone costs $9 per month.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/duckduckgo-unveils-a-10-privacy-pro-plan-with-a-no-log-vpn-120007653.html?src=rss

The Humane AI Pin is the solution to none of technology's problems

Thu, 2024-04-11 08:00

I’ve found myself at a loss for words when trying to explain the Humane AI Pin to my friends. The best description so far is that it’s a combination of a wearable Siri button with a camera and built-in projector that beams onto your palm. But each time I start explaining that, I get so caught up in pointing out its problems that I never really get to fully detail what the AI Pin can do. Or is meant to do, anyway.

Yet, words are crucial to the Humane AI experience. Your primary mode of interacting with the pin is through voice, accompanied by touch and gestures. Without speaking, your options are severely limited. The company describes the device as your “second brain,” but the combination of holding out my hand to see the projected screen, waving it around to navigate the interface and tapping my chest and waiting for an answer all just made me look really stupid. When I remember that I was actually eager to spend $700 of my own money to get a Humane AI Pin, not to mention shell out the required $24 a month for the AI and the company’s 4G service riding on T-Mobile’s network, I feel even sillier.

What is the Humane AI Pin?

In the company’s own words, the Humane AI Pin is the “first wearable device and software platform built to harness the full power of artificial intelligence.” If that doesn’t clear it up, well, I can’t blame you.

There are basically two parts to the device: the Pin and its magnetic attachment. The Pin is the main piece, which houses a touch-sensitive panel on its face, with a projector, camera, mic and speakers lining its top edge. It’s about the same size as an Apple Watch Ultra 2, both measuring about 44mm (1.73 inches) across. The Humane wearable is slightly squatter, though, with its 47.5mm (1.87 inches) height compared to the Watch Ultra’s 49mm (1.92 inches). It’s also half the weight of Apple’s smartwatch, at 34.2 grams (1.2 ounces).

The top of the AI Pin is slightly thicker than the bottom, since it has to contain extra sensors and indicator lights, but it’s still about the same depth as the Watch Ultra 2. Snap on a magnetic attachment, and you add about 8mm (0.31 inches). There are a few accessories available, with the most useful being the included battery booster. You’ll get two battery boosters in the “complete system” when you buy the Humane AI Pin, as well as a charging cradle and case. The booster helps clip the AI Pin to your clothes while adding some extra hours of life to the device (in theory, anyway). It also brings an extra 20 grams (0.7 ounces) with it, but even including that the AI Pin is still 10 grams (0.35 ounces) lighter than the Watch Ultra 2.

That weight (or lack thereof) is important, since anything too heavy would drag down on your clothes, which would not only be uncomfortable but also block the Pin’s projector from functioning properly. If you're wearing it with a thinner fabric, by the way, you’ll have to use the latch accessory instead of the booster, which is a $40 plastic tile that provides no additional power. You can also get the stainless steel clip that Humane sells for $50 to stick it onto heavier materials or belts and backpacks. Whichever accessory you choose, though, you’ll place it on the underside of your garment and stick the Pin on the outside to connect the pieces.

Humane AI PinHayato Huseman for Engadget How the AI Pin works

But you might not want to place the AI Pin on a bag, as you need to tap on it to ask a question or pull up the projected screen. Every interaction with the device begins with touching it, there is no wake word, so having it out of reach sucks.

Tap and hold on the touchpad, ask a question, then let go and wait a few seconds for the AI to answer. You can hold out your palm to read what it said, bringing your hand closer to and further from your chest to toggle through elements. To jump through individual cards and buttons, you’ll have to tilt your palm up or down, which can get in the way of seeing what’s on display. But more on that in a bit.

There are some built-in gestures offering shortcuts to functions like taking a picture or video or controlling music playback. Double tapping the Pin with two fingers will snap a shot, while double-tapping and holding at the end will trigger a 15-second video. Swiping up or down adjusts the device or Bluetooth headphone volume while the assistant is talking or when music is playing, too.

Side view of the Humane AI Pin held in mid-air in front of some green foliage and a red brick building.Cherlynn Low for Engadget

Each person who orders the Humane AI Pin will have to set up an account and go through onboarding on the website before the company will ship out their unit. Part of this process includes signing into your Google or Apple accounts to port over contacts, as well as watching a video that walks you through those gestures I described. Your Pin will arrive already linked to your account with its eSIM and phone number sorted. This likely simplifies things so users won’t have to fiddle with tedious steps like installing a SIM card or signing into their profiles. It felt a bit strange, but it’s a good thing because, as I’ll explain in a bit, trying to enter a password on the AI Pin is a real pain.

Talking to the Humane AI Pin

The easiest way to interact with the AI Pin is by talking to it. It’s supposed to feel natural, like you’re talking to a friend or assistant, and you shouldn’t have to feel forced when asking it for help. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case in my testing.

When the AI Pin did understand me and answer correctly, it usually took a few seconds to reply, in which time I could have already gotten the same results on my phone. For a few things, like adding items to my shopping list or converting Canadian dollars to USD, it performed adequately. But “adequate” seems to be the best case scenario.

Sometimes the answers were too long or irrelevant. When I asked “Should I watch Dream Scenario,” it said “Dream Scenario is a 2023 comedy/fantasy film featuring Nicolas Cage, with positive ratings on IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It’s available for streaming on platforms like YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. If you enjoy comedy and fantasy genres, it may be worth watching.”

Setting aside the fact that the “answer” to my query came after a lot of preamble I found unnecessary, I also just didn’t find the recommendation satisfying. It wasn’t giving me a straight answer, which is understandable, but ultimately none of what it said felt different from scanning the top results of a Google search. I would have gleaned more info had I looked the film up on my phone, since I’d be able to see the actual Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores.

To be fair, the AI Pin was smart enough to understand follow-ups like “How about The Witch” without needing me to repeat my original question. But it’s 2024; we’re way past assistants that need so much hand-holding.

A screenshot showing the data stored on the Humane AI Pin's web portal. At the top is the header

We’re also past the days of needing to word our requests in specific ways for AI to understand us. Though Humane has said you can speak to the pin “naturally,” there are some instances when that just didn’t work. First, it occasionally misheard me, even in my quiet living room. When I asked “Would I like YouTuber Danny Gonzalez,” it thought I said “would I like YouTube do I need Gonzalez” and responded “It’s unclear if you would like Dulce Gonzalez as the content of their videos and channels is not specified.”

When I repeated myself by carefully saying “I meant Danny Gonzalez,” the AI Pin spouted back facts about the YouTuber’s life and work, but did not answer my original question.

That’s not as bad as the fact that when I tried to get the Pin to describe what was in front of me, it simply would not. Humane has a Vision feature in beta that’s meant to let the AI Pin use its camera to see and analyze things in view, but when I tried to get it to look at my messy kitchen island, nothing happened. I’d ask “What’s in front of me” or “What am I holding out in front of you” or “Describe what’s in front of me,” which is how I’d phrase this request naturally. I tried so many variations of this, including “What am I looking at” and “Is there an octopus in front of me,” to no avail. I even took a photo and asked “can you describe what’s in that picture.”

Every time, I was told “Your AI Pin is not sure what you’re referring to” or “This question is not related to AI Pin” or, in the case where I first took a picture, “Your AI Pin is unable to analyze images or describe them.” I was confused why this wasn’t working even after I double checked that I had opted in and enabled the feature, and finally realized after checking the reviewers' guide that I had to use prompts that started with the word “Look.”

Look, maybe everyone else would have instinctively used that phrasing. But if you’re like me and didn’t, you’ll probably give up and never use this feature again. Even after I learned how to properly phrase my Vision requests, they were still clunky as hell. It was never as easy as “Look for my socks” but required two-part sentences like “Look at my room and tell me if there are boots in it” or “Look at this thing and tell me how to use it.”

A screenshot showing recent queries with the Humane AI Pin. The top of the page says

When I worded things just right, results were fairly impressive. It confirmed there was a “Lysol can on the top shelf of the shelving unit” and a “purple octopus on top of the brown cabinet.” I held out a cheek highlighter and asked what to do with it. The AI Pin accurately told me “The Carry On 2 cream by BYBI Beauty can be used to add a natural glow to skin,” among other things, although it never explicitly told me to apply it to my face. I asked it where an object I was holding came from, and it just said “The image is of a hand holding a bag of mini eggs. The bag is yellow with a purple label that says ‘mini eggs.’” Again, it didn't answer my actual question.

Humane’s AI, which is powered by a mix of OpenAI’s recent versions of GPT and other sources including its own models, just doesn’t feel fully baked. It’s like a robot pretending to be sentient — capable of indicating it sort of knows what I’m asking, but incapable of delivering a direct answer.

My issues with the AI Pin’s language model and features don’t end there. Sometimes it just refuses to do what I ask of it, like restart or shut down. Other times it does something entirely unexpected. When I said “Send a text message to Julian Chokkattu,” who’s a friend and fellow AI Pin reviewer over at Wired, I thought I’d be asked what I wanted to tell him. Instead, the device simply said OK and told me it sent the words “Hey Julian, just checking in. How's your day going?” to Chokkattu. I've never said anything like that to him in our years of friendship, but I guess technically the AI Pin did do what I asked.

Humane AI PinHayato Huseman for Engadget Using the Humane AI Pin’s projector display

If only voice interactions were the worst thing about the Humane AI Pin, but the list of problems only starts there. I was most intrigued by the company’s “pioneering Laser Ink display” that projects green rays onto your palm, as well as the gestures that enabled interaction with “onscreen” elements. But my initial wonder quickly gave way to frustration and a dull ache in my shoulder. It might be tiring to hold up your phone to scroll through Instagram, but at least you can set that down on a table and continue browsing. With the AI Pin, if your arm is not up, you’re not seeing anything.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a pretty small canvas. I would see about seven lines of text each time, with about one to three words on each row depending on the length. This meant I had to hold my hand up even longer so I could wait for notifications to finish scrolling through. I also have a smaller palm than some other reviewers I saw while testing the AI Pin. Julian over at Wired has a larger hand and I was downright jealous when I saw he was able to fit the entire projection onto his palm, whereas the contents of my display would spill over onto my fingers, making things hard to read.

It’s not just those of us afflicted with tiny palms that will find the AI Pin tricky to see. Step outside and you’ll have a hard time reading the faint projection. Even on a cloudy, rainy day in New York City, I could barely make out the words on my hands.

When you can read what’s on the screen, interacting with it might make you want to rip your eyes out. Like I said, you’ll have to move your palm closer and further to your chest to select the right cards to enter your passcode. It’s a bit like dialing a rotary phone, with cards for individual digits from 0 to 9. Go further away to get to the higher numbers and the backspace button, and come back for the smaller ones.

This gesture is smart in theory but it’s very sensitive. There’s a very small range of usable space since there is only so far your hand can go, so the distance between each digit is fairly small. One wrong move and you’ll accidentally select something you didn’t want and have to go all the way out to delete it. To top it all off, moving my arm around while doing that causes the Pin to flop about, meaning the screen shakes on my palm, too. On average, unlocking my Pin, which involves entering a four-digit passcode, took me about five seconds.

On its own, this doesn’t sound so bad, but bear in mind that you’ll have to re-enter this each time you disconnect the Pin from the booster, latch or clip. It’s currently springtime in New York, which means I’m putting on and taking off my jacket over and over again. Every time I go inside or out, I move the Pin to a different layer and have to look like a confused long-sighted tourist reading my palm at various distances. It’s not fun.

Of course, you can turn off the setting that requires password entry each time you remove the Pin, but that’s simply not great for security.

Though Humane says “privacy and transparency are paramount with AI Pin,” by its very nature the device isn’t suitable for performing confidential tasks unless you’re alone. You don’t want to dictate a sensitive message to your accountant or partner in public, nor might you want to speak your Wi-Fi password out loud.

That latter is one of two input methods for setting up an internet connection, by the way. If you choose not to spell your Wi-Fi key out loud, then you can go to the Humane website to type in your network name (spell it out yourself, not look for one that’s available) and password to generate a QR code for the Pin to scan. Having to verbally relay alphanumeric characters to the Pin is not ideal, and though the QR code technically works, it just involves too much effort. It’s like giving someone a spork when they asked for a knife and fork: good enough to get by, but not a perfect replacement.

The Humane AI Pin held in mid-air in front of some bare trees and a street with red brick buildings on it.Cherlynn Low for Engadget The Humane AI Pin’s speaker

Since communicating through speech is the easiest means of using the Pin, you’ll need to be verbal and have hearing. If you choose not to raise your hand to read the AI Pin’s responses, you’ll have to listen for it. The good news is, the onboard speaker is usually loud enough for most environments, and I only struggled to hear it on NYC streets with heavy traffic passing by. I never attempted to talk to it on the subway, however, nor did I obnoxiously play music from the device while I was outside.

In my office and gym, though, I did get the AI Pin to play some songs. The music sounded fine — I didn’t get thumping bass or particularly crisp vocals, but I could hear instruments and crooners easily. Compared to my iPhone 15 Pro Max, it’s a bit tinny, as expected, but not drastically worse.

The problem is there are, once again, some caveats. The most important of these is that at the moment, you can only use Tidal’s paid streaming service with the Pin. You’ll get 90 days free with your purchase, and then have to pay $11 a month (on top of the $24 you already give to Humane) to continue streaming tunes from your Pin. Humane hasn’t said yet if other music services will eventually be supported, either, so unless you’re already on Tidal, listening to music from the Pin might just not be worth the price. Annoyingly, Tidal also doesn’t have the extensive library that competing providers do, so I couldn’t even play songs like Beyonce’s latest album or Taylor Swift’s discography (although remixes of her songs were available).

Though Humane has described its “personic speaker” as being able to create a “bubble of sound,” that “bubble” certainly has a permeable membrane. People around you will definitely hear what you’re playing, so unless you’re trying to start a dance party, it might be too disruptive to use the AI Pin for music without pairing Bluetooth headphones. You’ll also probably get better sound quality from Bose, Beats or AirPods anyway.

The Humane AI Pin camera experience

I’ll admit it — a large part of why I was excited for the AI Pin is its onboard camera. My love for taking photos is well-documented, and with the Pin, snapping a shot is supposed to be as easy as double-tapping its face with two fingers. I was even ready to put up with subpar pictures from its 13-megapixel sensor for the ability to quickly capture a scene without having to first whip out my phone.

Sadly, the Humane AI Pin was simply too slow and feverish to deliver on that premise. I frequently ran into times when, after taking a bunch of photos and holding my palm up to see how each snap turned out, the device would get uncomfortably warm. At least twice in my testing, the Pin just shouted “Your AI Pin is too warm and needs to cool down” before shutting down.

A sample image from the Humane AI Pin's 13-megapixel camera, showing a tree-lined path in a park. A sample image from the Humane AI Pin.Cherlynn Low for Engadget

Even when it’s running normally, using the AI Pin’s camera is slow. I’d double tap it and then have to stand still for at least three seconds before it would take the shot. I appreciate that there’s audio and visual feedback through the flashing green lights and the sound of a shutter clicking when the camera is going, so both you and people around know you’re recording. But it’s also a reminder of how long I need to wait — the “shutter” sound will need to go off thrice before the image is saved.

I took photos and videos in various situations under different lighting conditions, from a birthday dinner in a dimly lit restaurant to a beautiful park on a cloudy day. I recorded some workout footage in my building’s gym with large windows, and in general anything taken with adequate light looked good enough to post. The videos might make viewers a little motion sick, since the camera was clipped to my sports bra and moved around with me, but that’s tolerable.

In dark environments, though, forget about it. Even my Nokia E7 from 2012 delivered clearer pictures, most likely because I could hold it steady while framing a shot. The photos of my friends at dinner were so grainy, one person even seemed translucent. To my knowledge, that buddy is not a ghost, either.

A sample image from the Humane AI Pin's 13-megapixel camera, showing a group of people sitting around a table in a dimly lit restaurant. One person is staring at the camera with his chin resting on the back of his hand. The photos is fuzzy and grainy.A sample image from the Humane AI Pin.Cherlynn Low for Engadget

To its credit, Humane’s camera has a generous 120-degree field of view, meaning you’ll capture just about anything in front of you. When you’re not sure if you’ve gotten your subject in the picture, you can hold up your palm after taking the shot, and the projector will beam a monochromatic preview so you can verify. It’s not really for you to admire your skilled composition or level of detail, and more just to see that you did indeed manage to get the receipt in view before moving on.

Cosmos OS on the Humane AI Pin

When it comes time to retrieve those pictures off the AI Pin, you’ll just need to navigate to humane.center in any browser and sign in. There, you’ll find your photos and videos under “Captures,” your notes, recently played music and calls, as well as every interaction you’ve had with the assistant. That last one made recalling every weird exchange with the AI Pin for this review very easy.

You’ll have to make sure the AI Pin is connected to Wi-Fi and power, and be at least 50 percent charged before full-resolution photos and videos will upload to the dashboard. But before that, you can still scroll through previews in a gallery, even though you can’t download or share them.

The web portal is fairly rudimentary, with large square tiles serving as cards for sections like “Captures,” “Notes” and “My Data.” Going through them just shows you things you’ve saved or asked the Pin to remember, like a friend’s favorite color or their birthday. Importantly, there isn’t an area for you to view your text messages, so if you wanted to type out a reply from your laptop instead of dictating to the Pin, sorry, you can’t. The only way to view messages is by putting on the Pin, pulling up the screen and navigating the onboard menus to find them.

Humane AI Pin interfaceHayato Huseman for Engadget

That brings me to what you see on the AI Pin’s visual interface. If you’ve raised your palm right after asking it something, you’ll see your answer in text form. But if you had brought up your hand after unlocking or tapping the device, you’ll see its barebones home screen. This contains three main elements — a clock widget in the middle, the word “Nearby” in a bubble at the top and notifications at the bottom. Tilting your palm scrolls through these, and you can pinch your index finger and thumb together to select things.

Push your hand further back and you’ll bring up a menu with five circles that will lead you to messages, phone, settings, camera and media player. You’ll need to tilt your palm to scroll through these, but because they’re laid out in a ring, it’s not as straightforward as simply aiming up or down. Trying to get the right target here was one of the greatest challenges I encountered while testing the AI Pin. I was rarely able to land on the right option on my first attempt. That, along with the fact that you have to put on the Pin (and unlock it), made it so difficult to see messages that I eventually just gave up looking at texts I received.

The Humane AI Pin overheating, in use and battery life

One reason I sometimes took off the AI Pin is that it would frequently get too warm and need to “cool down.” Once I removed it, I would not feel the urge to put it back on. I did wear it a lot in the first few days I had it, typically from 7:45AM when I headed out to the gym till evening, depending on what I was up to. Usually at about 3PM, after taking a lot of pictures and video, I would be told my AI Pin’s battery was running low, and I’d need to swap out the battery booster. This didn’t seem to work sometimes, with the Pin dying before it could get enough power through the accessory. At first it appeared the device simply wouldn’t detect the booster, but I later learned it’s just slow and can take up to five minutes to recognize a newly attached booster.

When I wore the AI Pin to my friend (and fellow reviewer) Michael Fisher’s birthday party just hours after unboxing it, I had it clipped to my tank top just hovering above my heart. Because it was so close to the edge of my shirt, I would accidentally brush past it a few times when reaching for a drink or resting my chin on my palm a la The Thinker. Normally, I wouldn’t have noticed the Pin, but as it was running so hot, I felt burned every time my skin came into contact with its chrome edges. The touchpad also grew warm with use, and the battery booster resting against my chest also got noticeably toasty (though it never actually left a mark).

Humane AI PinHayato Huseman for Engadget

Part of the reason the AI Pin ran so hot is likely that there’s not a lot of room for the heat generated by its octa-core Snapdragon processor to dissipate. I had also been using it near constantly to show my companions the pictures I had taken, and Humane has said its laser projector is “designed for brief interactions (up to six to nine minutes), not prolonged usage” and that it had “intentionally set conservative thermal limits for this first release that may cause it to need to cool down.” The company added that it not only plans to “improve uninterrupted run time in our next software release,” but also that it’s “working to improve overall thermal performance in the next software release.”

There are other things I need Humane to address via software updates ASAP. The fact that its AI sometimes decides not to do what I ask, like telling me “Your AI Pin is already running smoothly, no need to restart” when I asked it to restart is not only surprising but limiting. There are no hardware buttons to turn the pin on or off, and the only other way to trigger a restart is to pull up the dreaded screen, painstakingly go to the menu, hopefully land on settings and find the Power option. By which point if the Pin hasn’t shut down my arm will have.

A lot of my interactions with the AI Pin also felt like problems I encountered with earlier versions of Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant. The overly wordy answers, for example, or the pronounced two or three-second delay before a response, are all reminiscent of the early 2010s. When I asked the AI Pin to “remember that I parked my car right here,” it just saved a note saying “Your car is parked right here,” with no GPS information or no way to navigate back. So I guess I parked my car on a sticky note.

To be clear, that’s not something that Humane ever said the AI Pin can do, but it feels like such an easy thing to offer, especially since the device does have onboard GPS. Google’s made entire lines of bags and Levi’s jackets that serve the very purpose of dropping pins to revisit places later. If your product is meant to be smart and revolutionary, it should at least be able to do what its competitors already can, not to mention offer features they don’t.

A screenshot of the Humane AI Pin's web portal, showing previous requests, with the header Screenshot

One singular thing that the AI Pin actually manages to do competently is act as an interpreter. After you ask it to “translate to [x language],” you’ll have to hold down two fingers while you talk, let go and it will read out what you said in the relevant tongue. I tried talking to myself in English and Mandarin, and was frankly impressed with not only the accuracy of the translation and general vocal expressiveness, but also at how fast responses came through. You don’t even need to specify the language the speaker is using. As long as you’ve set the target language, the person talking in Mandarin will be translated to English and the words said in English will be read out in Mandarin.

It’s worth considering the fact that using the AI Pin is a nightmare for anyone who gets self-conscious. I’m pretty thick-skinned, but even I tried to hide the fact that I had a strange gadget with a camera pinned to my person. Luckily, I didn’t get any obvious stares or confrontations, but I heard from my fellow reviewers that they did. And as much as I like the idea of a second brain I can wear and offload little notes and reminders to, nothing that the AI Pin does well is actually executed better than a smartphone.

Wrap-up

Not only is the Humane AI Pin slow, finicky and barely even smart, using it made me look pretty dumb. In a few days of testing, I went from being excited to show it off to my friends to not having any reason to wear it.

Humane’s vision was ambitious, and the laser projector initially felt like a marvel. At first glance, it looked and felt like a refined product. But it just seems like at every turn, the company had to come up with solutions to problems it created. No screen or keyboard to enter your Wi-Fi password? No worries, use your phone or laptop to generate a QR code. Want to play music? Here you go, a 90-day subscription to Tidal, but you can only play music on that service.

The company promises to make software updates that could improve some issues, and the few tweaks my unit received during this review did make some things (like music playback) work better. The problem is that as it stands, the AI Pin doesn’t do enough to justify its $700 and $24-a-month price, and I simply cannot recommend anyone spend this much money for the one or two things it does adequately. 

Maybe in time, the AI Pin will be worth revisiting, but it’s hard to imagine why anyone would need a screenless AI wearable when so many devices exist today that you can use to talk to an assistant. From speakers and phones to smartwatches and cars, the world is full of useful AI access points that allow you to ditch a screen. Humane says it’s committed to a “future where AI seamlessly integrates into every aspect of our lives and enhances our daily experiences.” 

After testing the company’s AI Pin, that future feels pretty far away.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-humane-ai-pin-is-the-solution-to-none-of-technologys-problems-120002469.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Amazon stops paying bonuses to Alexa developers

Thu, 2024-04-11 07:15

Amazon has cut paid perks for Alexa developers. With a bigger focus on generative AI, the voice assistant’s third-party apps (skills) aren’t a priority. An Amazon spokesperson told Engadget that the “older programs have simply run their course, so we decided to sunset them.”

Launched in 2017, when Alexa was all the rage, the program paid developers bonuses for skills that resonated with users. It was part of Amazon’s quest to turn Alexa Skills into a booming app store. (Did that happen?)

At the company’s fall 2023 devices event, Amazon previewed its next-gen version of Alexa, with ChatGPT-like generative AI abilities. With AI powers, Alexa appeared versatile enough to address all sorts of queries and requests without creating apps and skills manually. Alexa isn’t going anywhere; Amazon is just making it think for itself.

— Mat Smith

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Google Photos’ enhanced editing tools will no longer require a subscription Magic Eraser, Photo UnBlur, Magic Editor and more will be widely available in May.

Free Google Photos users get enhanced editing features without paying $20+ annually. This means all users will get a few of Google’s AI-powered tools, such as Photo UnBlur, Magic Eraser, and Magic Editor. I can attest: Photo UnBlur is a game-changer when taking shots of toddlers that will. Not. Stay. Still.

Continue reading.

Knock another $74 off the Nothing Phone 2 It works on T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks. TMAEngadget

Amazon has the Nothing Phone 2 on sale for the first time since its launch. The offbeat mainstream smartphone alternative is $74 off its usual price, down to $625. The deal includes the version with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and it’s ready for activation on T-Mobile or AT&T.

Continue reading.

Vampire Survivors hits PlayStation this summer The game is also getting Contra DLC in May.

Hit retro bullet-hell-rogue-ish Vampire Survivors is coming to PlayStation — possibly the only platform it hasn’t been on yet. The game is also getting a batch of crossover DLC on May 9. Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns brings Contra characters and weapons, so expect a lot more guns. 22 of them, in fact.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-amazon-stops-paying-bonuses-to-alexa-developers-111557415.html?src=rss

iPhone users in 92 countries received a spyware attack warning from Apple

Thu, 2024-04-11 06:45

Some iPhone users got a very concerning alert to their devices on Wednesday. Apple sent notifications to individuals in 92 countries warning them that they may have been the target of mercenary spyware attacks, TechCrunch reports. "Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-," the message read.

Apple's alert went on to share additional information about the incident. "This attack is likely targeting you specifically because of who you are or what you do. Although it's never possible to achieve absolute certainty when detecting such attacks, Apple has high confidence in this warning — please take it seriously," the alert continued. Apple explained that it couldn't provide any information about what prompted the message out of concern that additional information would help attackers avoid future detection. The company uses internal information and investigations to pinpoint attacks.

This instance is hardly the first time Apple has had to send this sort of notification. Since 2021, individuals in over 150 countries have received similar messages, including a warning to some journalists and politicians in India last October. However, it's unclear which countries individuals received alerts in this time around.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/iphone-users-in-92-countries-received-a-spyware-attack-warning-from-apple-104554943.html?src=rss

Mercedes’ new EQS looks a lot more like an S-Class

Thu, 2024-04-11 05:22

Mercedes-Benz has released a preview of its 2025 EQS electric vehicle model that comes with a new grille design featuring chrome slats against a deep black background along with a standing star on its hood. With just those changes, the upcoming EQS more clearly resembles Benz's S-Class vehicles, its counterpart in the automaker's non-EV lineup, than its predecessor does. In addition to the more traditional Benz look and upgrades that make its seats more comfortable, the 2025 EQS will also come with a larger battery. 

Its new battery has a larger usable capacity of 118 kWh, compared to the older model's 108.4 kWh. Of course, the higher the kWh, the longer an EV's range is — the first EQS had an EPA-estimated 350 mile-range, so expect Mercedes to announce a longer range than that. The 2025 EQS will feature new regenerative braking software that the automaker says can recover more energy for use, as well. That will also contribute to a longer range, lesser use of the car's brake discs and a better pedal feel. 

The automaker hasn't announced how much the model would cost yet, but prices will likely start at $100,000-plus when it arrives at US dealerships later this year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/mercedes-new-eqs-looks-a-lot-more-like-an-s-class-092237724.html?src=rss

The best cheap Windows laptops for 2024

Thu, 2024-04-11 05:01

Even though we at Engadget test and review a number of new Windows laptops every year, the cheapest notebooks don’t often make headlines. You won’t find pricey panels on these machines, nor will they include the latest high-powered graphics cards or ultra thin-and-light designs. But they have their place and can do a lot of things well. And it’s worth noting that not everyone needs a pro-level laptop — they just need the best machine that will fit their budget.

Companies like Acer, Dell and Lenovo make plenty of cheap Windows laptops that can be great for those who primarily use a computer to check email, shop online and occasionally video chat with friends and family. They can also be great for kids who have no business touching their parents’ pricey daily driver. We’ve tested a number of budget-friendly Windows notebooks — these are our favorites below, and we outline some buying advice for anyone looking for a cheap Windows laptop that balances capability with affordability.

What about Chromebooks and tablets?

You may be inclined to recommend a Chromebook or a tablet to anyone considering a budget Windows laptop. Those instincts aren’t wrong, but Chromebooks and tablets aren’t the best buy for everyone. Tablets have the most portability, but they will only work for the most mobile-competent users like kids who have been grabbing smartphones out of their parents’ hands since they’ve been dexterous enough to do so. Tablets can also be just as expensive as some of the cheapest Windows laptops, and that’s without a mouse or keyboard.

Chromebooks are a good alternative for those that basically live in a browser, the trade-off being you must give up the “traditional desktop.” And Chrome OS is a more limited operating system than Windows when it comes to the programs you can install and run.

What Windows laptops do well  Computer user touching on Microsoft Edge, a web browser developed by Microsoft, icon on Windows 10 to open the program.Wachiwit via Getty Images

What can you realistically accomplish on a cheap Windows laptop? Quite a bit, especially if you’re doing one thing (or a limited number of things) at a time. They’re great for web browsing, checking email, video streaming and more. All of those things can be done on Chromebooks as well, but Windows laptops have a big advantage in Microsoft Office. While yes, there is a browser based version, the native, desktop apps are considered a must have for many and will run smoothly on even the most bare-bones budget laptop. The only caveat is that you may run into some slowdown on low-powered devices if you’re multitasking or working with large data sets in Excel or a lot of photos and graphics in Powerpoint.

When it comes to specs, a bright spot for Windows laptops is storage. Even the most affordable devices tend to have at least 128GB SSDs. That will come in handy if you prefer to keep your most important files saved locally on your laptop. In contrast, cheaper Chromebooks often have less storage because they’re built on the assumption that you’ll save all of your documents in the cloud. Not only is that less convenient when you need to work offline, but it also limits the size of programs and files that you can download. So, Chromebooks aren't the best for hoarding Netflix shows before a long trip or for use as a gaming laptop.

Windows also has thousands of apps that you can download from its app store. Chromebooks have some Chrome apps, numerous browser extensions and the ability to download Android apps, but quality control is… inconsistent. Android apps, in particular, often haven’t been optimized for Chrome OS, which makes for a wonky user experience. Windows may not have as many apps as Android, but at least the experience is fairly standard across the board.

Windows also gives you the ability to download and use programs from other sources, like direct from the developer. You can run things like Adobe Creative Suite, certain VPNs and programs like GIMP, Audacity and ClipMate on a Windows device, which just isn’t possible on Chrome OS. Chromebooks limit you to the apps and programs in The Play Store and the Chrome Extensions store, reducing any others to unusable, space-sucking icons in your Downloads folder.

What to look for in a budget-friendly Windows laptop

While you can do a lot even when spending little on a Windows laptop, you must set your expectations accordingly. The biggest downside when purchasing a budget laptop (of any kind, really) is limited power. Many Windows laptops under $500 run on Intel Celeron or Pentium processors, but you can find some with Core i3/i5 and AMD Ryzen 3/5 CPUs at the higher end of the price spectrum.

Specs to look for in a sub-$500 Windows laptop
  • Intel Core i or AMD Ryzen 3 processors

  • At least 8GB of RAM

  • An SSD with at least 128GB of space

  • 1080p display

  • Mostly metal designs

We recommend getting the most powerful CPU you can afford because it will dictate how fast the computer will feel overall. RAM is also important because, the more you have, the easier it will be for the laptop to manage things like a dozen browser tabs while you edit a Word document and stream music in the background. However, with sub-$500 laptops, you’re better off getting the best CPU you can afford rather than a laptop with a ton of RAM because the CPU will have enough power to handle most tasks that cheap Windows laptops are designed for (If you’re editing RAW images or 4K video, you’ll want to invest in more RAM… and a laptop well above $500).

When it comes to storage, consider how much you want to save locally. If you primarily work in Google Docs or save most things in the cloud, you may not need a machine with a ton of onboard storage. Just remember that your digital space will also be taken up by apps, so it may be worth getting a little extra storage than you think you need if you know you’ll be downloading big programs. A final side note: SSDs are ubiquitous at this point, not to mention faster and more efficient than HDDs, so we recommend getting a laptop with that type of storage.

You also don’t have to settle for an entirely plastic notebook either. There are options in the sub-$500 price range that are made, at least in part, with metals like aluminum. Those will not only be more attractive but also more durable. As for screens, there’s a healthy mix of HD and FHD options in this price range and we recommend springing for a notebook with a 1080p display if you can. Touchscreens aren’t as common in the under-$500 space as standard panels, but you’ll only really miss one if you get a 2-in-1 laptop.

See Also:

A final note before we get to our picks: The best cheap laptop models change all the time. Unlike more expensive, flagship machines, these notebooks can be updated a couple times each year. That can make it hard to track down a specific model at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart or any other retailer. Also, we’ve seen prices vary widely depending on the configuration and retailer you’re looking at. We’ve listed some of our current favorite models below, but if you can’t find any of them available near you, just keep in mind our list of specs to look for in a cheap laptop – they’ll guide you to the best machines available at the moment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-affordable-windows-laptops-123000512.html?src=rss

Twitch CEO says DJs will have to share what they earn on the website with music labels

Thu, 2024-04-11 02:02

In an interview with the channel TweakMusicTips, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy said that DJ streamers on the platform will have to share their revenue with music labels. As posted by Zach Bussey on X (formerly Twitter), Clancy said that Twitch is working on a "structure," wherein DJs and the platform "are gonna have to share money with the labels." He said he's already talked to some DJs about it. The DJs, of course, realized that they'd rather not share what they earn. But Clancy said that Twitch will pay part of what the labels are owed, while the DJs hand over a portion of their revenue. 

Clancy's statement was part of his response to the host's question about the copyright situation of music streamers on the platform. The CEO replied that Twitch has been talking to music labels about it in hopes of finding a stable solution so that DJ streamers don't get hit with DMCA takedown requests. He also said that the website has a "pretty good thing" going on with labels right now — a "thing" that involves Twitch paying them money, apparently — but it's not a sustainable long-term solution. Plus, the labels are only OK with that deal at the moment because they know Twitch is working on another solution that will make them (more) money. 

Clancy also clarified that live streams and videos on demand have different sets of rules for playing copyrighted music, and the latter is definitely a problem. That's why he suggests that DJs should mute pre-recorded videos on their own, because Twitch's system doesn't always detect copyrighted songs to mute them. The CEO said Twitch is close to signing the deal with labels, but it's unclear how the Amazon subsidiary intends to monitor live music streams and if it already has the technology to do so. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/twitch-ceo-says-djs-will-have-to-share-what-they-earn-on-the-website-with-music-labels-060210010.html?src=rss

Overwatch 2 introduces harsher punishments for players who leave mid-match

Wed, 2024-04-10 22:30

Blizzard is taking mid-match leaves on Overwatch 2 more seriously and is implementing harsher punishments when Season 10 arrives. People playing Unranked games won't be able to join a queue for five minutes after leaving two of their last 20 games. And if they leave at least 10 out of the last 20, they'll be suspended for 48 hours. Players probably want to be even more careful when it comes to leaving Competitive games, though, because doing so 10 times out of 20 will get them banned for the rest of the season. In its announcement, Blizzard said that while it's aware not everyone abandons a game on purpose, these changes "should help curb those players who deliberately choose to leave a match." 

A table listing penalties for leaving Overwatch 2 matches.Blizzard

The developer is also making it easier for groups of friends to play together in Competitive mode, no matter their rank, by introducing "wide groups." A wide group is defined by having players from a wide range of ranks, from Diamond to tiers up to five Skill Divisions lower. Blizzard admits that opting for the new queue option will mean longer wait times, since it has to pair a wide group with another wide group with similar ranks in order to be fair. But it's hoping that the new feature will eliminate the need to use an alt account when playing with friends. 

The company is also adding new features designed to help prevent abuse and harassment in-game. People will soon be able to add up to 10 players in their "Avoid as Teammate" list instead of just three. It's also making it easy to report disruptive behavior by updating its reporting interface. Finally, Blizzard is blocking a player's access to text or voice chat in their matches if they were found to have engaged in abusive behavior and have broken the company's code of conduct. They can only get those privileges back if they spend time playing Overwatch 2 in their best behavior.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/overwatch-2-introduces-harsher-punishments-for-players-who-leave-mid-match-021319507.html?src=rss

You can grab the Nothing Phone 2 for $74 off right now

Wed, 2024-04-10 17:05

Amazon has the Nothing Phone 2 on sale for the first time since its launch. The offbeat mainstream smartphone alternative is $74 off its usual price. The deal includes the version with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and it’s ready for activation on T-Mobile or AT&T.

The Nothing Phone 2 has an unusual design, with a transparent back revealing an eye-pleasing arrangement of its internal hardware. The aesthetic is a throwback to tech from the late 1990s and early 2000s, like Apple’s iMac G3 and Nintendo’s Game Boy Color. Meanwhile, the Glyph Interface on the phone’s back uses LED strips to show customizable lights and patterns for your notifications. It’s a charming package that stands out in a sea of smartphone sameness.

Engadget’s Sam Rutherford reviewed the phone in 2023, and he noted its eye-catching hardware design and Monochrome UI in its software. Nothing isn’t marketing its phone based on record-breaking specs, but the startup still made a phone that “never felt slow” while being “well-equipped with handy features like reverse wireless charging.”

The phone runs on Nothing OS 2 (currently, it’s on 2.5.3) on top of Android 14. It has a 6.7-inch OLED display, a 4,700mAh battery and a pair of 50MP rear cameras (main and ultra-wide).

However, note that the phone is only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks in the US — not Verizon, Sprint, Cricket or other CDMA-based carriers. Nothing only brought its handsets (officially) to America with the current generation of hardware, so perhaps future models will offer broader stateside carrier support.

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

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/you-can-grab-the-nothing-phone-2-for-74-off-right-now-210527323.html?src=rss

A new Prince of Persia game is coming from the studio behind Dead Cells

Wed, 2024-04-10 14:40

Prince of Persia fans are really feasting this year. We've already seen the release of the well-received Metroidvania Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, but Ubisoft just announced another game in the franchise. The Rogue Prince of Persia is a team-up with Evil Empire, the developers behind the iconic roguelite Dead Cells. It comes to Steam early access on May 14.

It’s a sidescrolling roguelite, just like Dead Cells. As you can see from the trailer, the graphics also recall the widely-acclaimed and highly addictive action-platformer. You play as, wait for it, the Prince of Persia, who has been equipped with a mystical device that allows him to resurrect after death. You try your best. You die. You buy upgrades in the hub world. This is the roguelite formula and I am absolutely here for it.

Despite looking eerily like Dead Cells, the moveset looks to be pulled straight from the Prince of Persia franchise. Players will have access to the iconic wall run and related acrobatic skills to maneuver through the procedurally generated levels. To that end, there are a variety of colorful biomes, each inspired by Persian architecture.

There are also plenty of weapons to choose from, to suit different playstyles. These include twin daggers, spears, broadswords, axes and more. Additionally, players can equip secondary weapons, like bows and grappling hooks, making each run a unique gameplay experience. Ubisoft says the game will receive numerous updates once it receives player feedback from early access purchasers, promising “new levels, bosses, weapons, enemies and upgrades.”

The title was unveiled at the Triple-i Initiative event, an indie-themed gaming showcase. Evil Empire is very much an indie developer, but the same cannot be said of Ubisoft. This isn’t the only time Evil Empire has dipped its toes into a long-standing franchise. The developer once made a Castlevania expansion for Dead Cells.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-new-prince-of-persia-game-is-coming-from-the-studio-behind-dead-cells-184040223.html?src=rss

Palworld's upcoming Arena mode looks like Pokémon PvP with guns

Wed, 2024-04-10 14:25

Ever since Palworld first emerged, it's been described as "Pokémon with guns." A new mode that's coming to Pocketpair's massively successful game won't do much to get rid of those comparisons. Even based on a 15-second clip, it looks, sounds and smells just like Pokémon's player vs. player experiences.

In the inventively titled Palworld Arena, you'll be able to take on other players with the help of the Pokémon Pals you've captured. Pocketpair says you can train your strongest critters to overcome your rivals. A brief teaser shown at the Triple-i Initiative indie games showcase showed a split-screen view, for what it's worth.

At first glance, it seems like the main difference between this and Pokémon battles is that, instead of standing back and telling your Pals what to do, your character will be in the thick of the action as well, trying to take out the enemies with a range of weaponry. 

For those of us who aren't fans of turn-based combat (*waves*), it could be a more active, perhaps more compelling spin on Pokémon battles. But this really does just seem like Pokémon PvP modes with a different coat of paint. We'll get to find out just how alike the two franchises' takes on PvP really are when Palworld Arena arrives this summer.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/palworlds-upcoming-arena-mode-looks-like-pokemon-pvp-with-guns-182516871.html?src=rss

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