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DreamWorks Animation will open source its MoonRay renderer later this year

Fri, 2022-08-05 15:13

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

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

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

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

Fri, 2022-08-05 14:49

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

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

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

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

Netflix to pay $42 million in dispute over screenwriter compensation

Fri, 2022-08-05 12:33

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

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

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

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

FCC votes to boost manufacturing in space

Fri, 2022-08-05 12:17

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

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

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

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

UK may use facial recognition smartwatches to monitor migrant criminals

Fri, 2022-08-05 12:06

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 2022-08-05 11:45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 2022-08-05 11:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 2022-08-05 10:45

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

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

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

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

Asics’ 3D-printed sandal offers post-workout comfort

Fri, 2022-08-05 10:30

The theory and practice of marginal gains is to find and fix hundreds of small things that, in aggregate, add up to something vast. Asics believes that there are gains to be made in what runners wear when they’re at home as much as what they’re wearing on the track. That’s the pitch for the Actibreeze 3D, a pair of 3D-printed sandals with a lattice structure designed to improve cooling and breathability. The idea is to stop your extremities from getting too sweaty and tense after a run, so you’re that much more prepared for your next one. I’ve been wearing a pair for a couple of days now, and while they do keep your feet cool and dry, they’re not perfect.

Taking them out of the box, you’ll first notice how heavy they are, with each sandal – although they’re more like slippers – weighing 350 grams (12 oz) for my size 11s. They’re a lot bigger than your average pool slide, too, thanks to the overbuilt sole and lattice going over the top of your foot. Obviously, this is to help get air flowing under your feet to cool them down after a long run, and I experienced this after a fairly intensive gym session. It helped that we’re enduring a climate change-enhanced heatwave right now, to really ram home the lack of sweating. It’s a far nicer experience wearing these than what I’d normally use, which is a $15 pair of Havaianas.

Side view of ASICS Actibreeze 3D Daniel Cooper

The 3D lattice is designed to provide the maximum amount of “step-in comfort” available, which means they’re pretty bouncy. Not in a I’m-walking-on-air way, but in that whenever you step, you can feel the sole compressing and bouncing back as you walk. I don’t know if the effect is more pronounced here than on other 3D-printed soles on the market, or if it’s magnified because you’re barefoot rather than wearing socks. Certainly, it takes a little mental calibration to compensate for the level of travel you’ll experience during each step. Maybe those folks who wear those novelty moon boots will find these no big deal, but if you’re coming from something flat, it is a noticeable change.

Here’s the issue – obviously 3D-printed stuff is made of springy plastic, but it’s still plastic, with its mostly hard, not-particularly-yielding structure. Wear these for an hour and the soles of your feet will look like you’ve been standing on a colander, the skin covered in a grid of little squares. Whatever benefits your feet are getting on the macro level, it requires you to tolerate the small annoyance of having your skin fed through a mesh. And, on a similar theme, because it’s a hard, waterproof plastic, it’s not the ideal surface to put your feet in close contact during a heatwave. That’s perhaps the one area that my $15 Havaianas have the edge, since there’s so little material coming into contact with the top of my feet. But if you're only wearing these for the two or three hours after you've had a running session, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. 

Image of ASICS Actibreeze 3D being wornDaniel Cooper

Asics’ Actibreeze 3D are listed on the company’s website for $80, although they are currently not out for delivery. The company tells me that the stock will be available in selected markets once again this Autumn. 

Sony's LinkBuds S drop to a new low of $148 at Amazon

Fri, 2022-08-05 09:44

Sony's LinkBuds S are now particularly tempting if you're looking for true wireless earbuds with a dash of intelligence. Amazon is selling the LinkBuds S at a new low price of $148, well below the usual $200. That's even better than the Prime Day discount, and could make them an easy choice if you want major-brand audio without paying a stiff premium.

Buy LinkBuds S at Amazon - $148

The LinkBuds S' signature feature is their smart playback. They can automatically start or resume music based on your activity — you can specify a playlist when you go for a walk, for instance. They're also billed as the smallest and lightest wireless earbuds to support both active noise cancellation (ANC) and high-resolution audio. That's worth considering if comfort is paramount, especially if you intend to listen for the claimed six hours per charge (another 14 hours is available through the case).

As the middle ground between the top-tier WF-1000XM4 and budget WF-C500, the LinkBuds S involve some compromises. The auto playback feature works for both Android and iOS users, but it's limited to Spotify and the soundscape app Endel. ANC isn't quite as powerful as it is in the WF-1000XM4, and the case doesn't support wireless charging. The sale price makes these omissions easier to forgive, though, and Sony has touted after-launch upgrades like a low-latency mode for gamers.

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Samsung’s Z Fold 3 durability one year in: Tougher than you might think, but with one big caveat

Fri, 2022-08-05 09:00

Foldable phones are still kind of awkward, unproven devices. But over the last three generations (with a fourth presumably on the way), Samsung has made major strides with its designs, paving the way for innovative (though sometimes quite pricey) alternatives to the typical glass brick. And when you combine that with sales of nearing 10 million devices last year, it feels like Samsung's foldables are finally beginning to break into the mainstream.

But despite a number of improvements over the years, there's one aspect of Samsung's foldable that still needs a lot of work: durability. Last year, after purchasing my own Z Fold 2, I documented some of the issues I faced after owning it for 10 months. And after upgrading to the Z Fold 3 last fall, I'm here to report back on how Samsung's latest flagship foldable is holding up just shy of one year later.

Even after a year, the Z Fold 3's exterior screen is still nearly pristineAside from one scratch at the bottom (which I take sole blame for), my Galaxy Z Fold 3's exterior Cover Screen is still almost pristine. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now at this point, some people might be wondering why I upgraded at all. The bubbles my Z Fold 2's screen suffered from were certainly annoying, but they weren't so bad I considered switching back to a standard candy bar handset. Instead, my main goal for buying the model (aside from professional curiosity) was to get a foldable that might better survive a newborn.

Compared to typical smartphones, the Z Fold 2's lack of water resistance was all but guaranteed to become a problem after my son was born. It felt like I would have to keep the phone in a separate room, lest I chance some small amount of spit up or drool ruining the device. And that simply wasn't something I wanted to do, which is what drew me to the Z Fold 3 and its IPX8 rating. I figured if a phone can withstand sitting in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to five feet, it could handle anything a baby could throw (or spit) at it too.

The back of the phone has also held up very well, aside from one ding on the edge of the frame. The back of the phone has also held up very well, aside from one ding on the edge of the frame. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Thankfully, I think my strategy worked, because even though it cost around $800 to upgrade after trading in my Z Fold 2, that money has already paid for itself. My Z Fold 3 has been peed on, it's been vomited on and it's had milk splashed all over it, and it's been totally fine. The phone has also been gnawed on more than a handful of times to no effect. So while the addition of water resistance to Samsung's foldables might not be all that exciting, considering regular phones that have had it for years, it's a huge enhancement to everyday usability.

The rest of the phone's body has held up pretty well too. There's a relatively large scratch on its frame and a couple of scuffs on its hinge, but those are all cosmetic dings. I should also mention I'm not someone who puts phones in skins or cases, this thing has lived naked since the day I got it. So while I haven't been traveling much, the sheer number of times this phone has endured being knocked out of my hand or fallen on the floor while rushing to grab my kid after a nap is kind of impressive. Even dust and crumbs have been handled by the extra bristles Samsung put inside its hinge.

There are also some small scuffs on the hinge, but that's sort of to be expected considering I never put the phone in a case. There are also some small scuffs on the hinge, but that's sort of to be expected considering I never put the phone in a case. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The big exception to the Z Fold 3's improved durability is once again its built-in screen protector. For this model, Samsung says it switched away from the TPU material it used on the Z Fold 2 to a new PET film while also using a stickier adhesive, which was designed to prevent bubbles from forming between the protector and the display itself. But in my experience, none of that helped.

For the first six months I had it, my Z Fold 3's screen was pristine. There were no blemishes, bubbles or anything. But then one winter day while I was walking down the street, I opened the phone and heard a crack. At first, I feared the worst, thinking its exterior cover screen had shattered or something important inside had broken. But upon closer inspection, I noticed there was a fine line running down the middle of the phone near the crease, as if the protector had been pulled or stretched.

This is what the bubbling looked like in June, when I first attempted to get it repaired. This is what the bubbling looked like in June, when I first attempted to get it repaired. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

And while I'm still not sure what the exact cause was, my theory is that after pulling the phone out of my pocket, the cold winter air made the screen protector unusually brittle, causing it to snap instead of bend when I opened the phone. This is an issue a number of other Z Fold owners have run into, and once you suffer that initial crack, it's only a matter of time until bubbles begin to form. Over the past few months, those bubbles have grown into an air gap that runs down the entire middle of the screen, and no amount of pressing or trying smoothing things out has much of an effect. Recently, some dust has gotten wedged between the protector and the screen itself, which is frankly kind of gross. And because I'm trying to abide by Samsung's insistence that the screen protector should only be replaced by certified technicians, I haven’t tried to fix it on my own.

Naturally, the next step was to take the phone to one of Samsung's retail locations to have it serviced, at which point I discovered I'm far from the only person dealing with this. When I arrived, there were three other people already on the waitlist — and all of them were waiting to get the screen protector on their Z Fold replaced. Admittedly, this is merely an anecdotal observation, and I'm sure my choice to go to Samsung's flagship 837 location in NYC had something to do with the unusually high concentration of $1,800 foldable phones.

This more close-up shot shows how gross the display can get after dust and dirt finds its way beneath the Z Fold 3's built-in screen protector. This close-up shot shows how gross the display can get, because once bubbles start forming, there isn't much you can do to stop dust and first from getting beneath the screen protector. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

But, this wasn't a coincidence either. After talking to two of the other customers, I learned that they were also running into issues with bubbles around the six to eight month mark. On top of that, one of the Samsung Care+ reps I talked to essentially confirmed that this was a somewhat widespread issue, saying that screen protector replacements are the most commonly requested repair for Samsung's foldables. Unfortunately, because it takes about an hour to have the screen protector replaced and I was fourth in line, I couldn't wait around to get my Z Fold fixed. So here's a pro tip, if your phone needs to be serviced, make sure to schedule your appointment online, so you can avoid the line.

In the end, while I plan on returning to have my screen protector replaced, my big take away after owning both a Z Fold 2 and a Z Fold 3 is that there's a good chance you're going to run into bubbles after half a year or so. And without some sort of radical upgrade to the screen construction, the company's next generation of Z devices will probably suffer the same fate. That's kind of a bummer, because having to sit around for hours to fix something that's probably going to happen again sucks. And that goes double or triple for anyone who has to mail in their device because they don't live near a certified repair location.

This is how my Z Fold 3's screen looks after one year. The bubble now covers the entire height of the display. And while its appearance is more tolerable indoors, it's still far from ideal. This is how my Z Fold 3's screen looks after one year. The bubble now covers the entire height of the display. And while its appearance is more tolerable indoors, it's still far from ideal. Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As it stands, the bubbling is certainly annoying and not very pretty. Thankfully, the side effects are much less noticeable indoors or at night, so while it’s far from ideal, it’s tolerable. I will also admit that had I not been planning on writing this story, I would have gotten the screen protector replaced months ago. And if you’re running into a similar issue with your Z Flip or Z Fold, I’d highly suggest you address any bubbling as soon as possible, before any other related issues pop up.

But if Samsung ever wants its foldables to be as popular as the S or A-series phones, the screen protectors bubbling is an issue that needs to be solved sooner rather than later. As for me, while I haven't decided if I want to upgrade again or not, I'm just hoping that anyone on the fence will now have a slightly more realistic idea of what living with a foldable phone is actually like.

The Beats Studio Buds are back on sale for $100

Fri, 2022-08-05 08:45

We called the Beats Studio Buds the best device from the company for most people when they came out last year, and it remains one of our top picks if you're looking for a pair of relatively affordable wireless earbuds. They're an even better buy when you can grab them on sale — Amazon currently has the Beats Studio Buds for $100, which is a record low and a return to their Prime Day price. The discount applies to all color options, too, including the newer moon gray and ocean blue schemes.

Buy Beats Studio Buds at Amazon - $100

Normally priced at $150, the Beats Studio Buds impressed us with their small, comfortable design, solid sound quality and good active noise cancellation. In addition to being compact and lightweight, these buds have an IPX4 water-resistant rating, making them good for sweaty workouts, and they have onboard controls that let you play/pause, skip tracks and adjust ANC on the fly. Our biggest gripe with the overall design is that the Studio Buds' case doesn't support wireless charging.

As far as sound quality goes, Beats has come a long way. In addition to supporting Apple's spatial audio, the Studio Buds produce well-tuned sound with punchy bass that doesn't overwhelm. Noise cancellation does a good job of blocking out environmental noises, and Transparency mode lets you easily jump in and out of conversations happening around you.

The Beats Studio Buds also include Apple's H1 chipset inside, which will allow them to quickly pair with iPhones and other Apple devices. Similarly to AirPods, they should provide seamless switching between those devices as well. But Android users have not been left out in the dust — the Studio Buds also support Fast Pair and Find My Device on Android gadgets, so all of those features make them a good pick, regardless of which OS you prefer. 

If you're willing to pay a bit more, the new Beats Fit Pro earbuds are also on sale right now for $180. While not the record low we saw during Prime Day last moth ($160), this $20 discount is a decent one for Beats' latest offering. These buds have a similar design to the Beats Studio Buds, but they include wingtips that help keep the buds in your ears comfortably. We like them for their solid sound quality, strong ANC and spatial audio support with dynamic head tracking.

Buy Beats Fit Pro at Amazon - $180

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Engadget Podcast: Why is the OnePlus 10T so odd?

Fri, 2022-08-05 08:30

This week on the show, Cherlynn is joined by guest co-host Sam Rutherford to talk about the newly launched OnePlus 10T. Why did the company choose to sacrifice an alert slider, wireless charging and some other features in exchange for extreme speed? How does the OnePlus 10T stack up against other midrange phones like the Pixel 6a? Then, our hosts discuss the cloud-gaming handheld that Logitech and Tencent are working on, as well as the curiousheadlines that permeated the consumer tech news cycle this week. 

Listen below, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!

Engadget · Ep 136 Mixed
  • Our OnePlus 10T review – 1:37

  • Logitech and Tencent are working on a handheld cloud gaming console – 24:15

  • It’s not just you: Uber receipts are actually crashing Outlook – 30:34

  • Spotify finally adds a play button that doesn’t shuffle, but only for premium users – 32:22

  • PlayStation Accolades feature is being discontinued because online gamers aren't nice – 36:09

  • Microsoft negs Activision Blizzard’s game library amid acquisition process – 37:33

  • No, Google Stadia isn’t shutting down – 39:28

  • Discovery+ merger leaves HBO Max’s future in doubt, and Batgirl cancellation – 43:04

  • Working on – 51:58

  • Picks – 53:12

Video Stream

Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Sam Rutherford
Producer: Ben Ellman
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos, Luke Brooks
Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Brian Oh
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

Amazon is buying iRobot, the creator of the Roomba robot vacuum

Fri, 2022-08-05 08:22

Amazon just took a big step toward cornering the market for household robots. The company has reached a deal to acquire iRobot, the creator of Roomba robot vacuums. The purchase is worth $1.7 billion in cash and will maintain Colin Angle as iRobot's CEO. The two firms didn't say when they expected the deal to close, but that will depend on the approval of both iRobot shareholders and regulators.

In announcing the deal, Amazon didn't outline its exact plans. Amazon Devices Senior VP Dave Limp focused on iRobot's ability to "reinvent how people clean," and said he looked forward to inventing products. Angle said Amazon shared iRobot's "passion" for innovative home products and felt the internet giant was a good fit.

A successful merger will end 32 years of independence for iRobot. The company was founded in 1990 by MIT researchers, and initially focused on military robots like PackBot. It marked a major turning point in 2002, when it unveiled the first Roomba — the robovac quickly became popular and had sold a million units by 2004. The company expanded its lineup to include products like robotic mops (Braava), and became so successful that it sold its military business in 2016.


YouTube testing 'pinch to zoom' feature for Premium users

Fri, 2022-08-05 08:04

YouTube has quietly introduced an experimental feature called pinch to zoom exclusively for Premium users, Android Police has reported. It lets you zoom into the video player and then pan around to look at different parts of the screen, both in portrait or full-screen landscape view, as shown below. 

If you're a Premium user, you can try it out by tapping your profile photo and hitting "Your Premium benefits," opening the "Try new features" section and enabling the zoom function. It might take a while for the feature to kick in, but once it's active you can zoom in at up to 8x. 

YouTube testing 'pinch to zoom' feature for Premium UsersYouTube

In the past, YouTube tested interesting features like picture-in-picture with random users and beta app testers. In 2020, though, it launched experimental features for Premium users, letting them try out new options before anyone else. Several experimental features have made their way to the Premium app, including easier playlist management and browser-based voice search. The new feature will be available until September 1st and is only supported on Android devices for now. 

NASA reportedly had contingency plans for Russia's ISS exit last year

Fri, 2022-08-05 07:22

Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed chief of Roscosmos, recently announced that Russia is pulling out of the International Space Station after 2024. NASA and Russia's space agency work in tandem to keep the station running, and the latter's exit would change ISS operations tremendously. According to Reuters, though, NASA has actually been preparing for such a possibility way before Borisov made his announcement — and even before the invasion of Ukraine began — in light of the increasing tensions between Russia and the US.

Reuters' sources said NASA and the White House drew up contingency plans for the ISS late last year. Those plans include ways to pull astronauts out of the station if Russia leaves abruptly and ways to keep the ISS running without Russian hardware. While the US module keeps the station balanced and provides the electricity it needs to run using its solar arrays, Roscosmos' module has the thrusters needed to keep the flying lab in orbit. And that is why NASA's contingency plans also reportedly include examining ways to dispose of the station years earlier than planned. 

Apparently, NASA was working on creating a formal request for contractors to conjure up ways to deorbit the space station over the past few weeks. That said, the agency roped in private space companies into its contingency planning in hopes of keeping the ISS in orbit even without Russia. The sources said Boeing already formed a team of engineers to figure out how to control the ISS without Russia's thrusters. SpaceX chief Elon Musk also previously expressed interest in helping out when former Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin slammed Western sanctions against his country, asking who would "save the ISS from uncontrolled deorbiting" if the West blocks cooperation with Russia.

Back in June, Northrop Grumman was successfully able to adjust the station's orbit for future operations using its Cygnus capsule, which was then docked to the ISS. Reuters' sources said SpaceX is also looking into the possibility of using its spacecraft to boost the station's orbit. 

Borisov said Russia hasn't set a date for its exit yet, but that it would honor its obligations and will give partners a one-year notice before it leaves. Roscosmos and NASA will most likely continue working closely until Russia pulls out of the program — they even recently agreed to swap seats on Crew Dragon and Soyuz flights to the ISS.

The Morning After: What to expect from Samsung’s Unpacked event

Fri, 2022-08-05 07:15

Are you ready for Samsung’s summer salvo of foldables, wearables and peripherals? Yes, it’s that time again, and the company’s Unpacked event is likely to share two foldable smartphones, a new Pro wearable and probably some new software tricks.

Judging by the leaks, it won’t be a major shakeup, but the new Galaxy Z Fold may borrow design cues from the S22 Ultra, ensuring a more contemporary look. The next-gen Galaxy Z Flip, the clamshell one, looks even more like its predecessor, so we’re waiting on confirmation on exactly what has changed. This is the series helping Samsung sell its foldable family to the world — hopefully, the company has ways to capitalize on this enthusiasm. And throw in a bigger battery.

Samsung looks set to reveal its Galaxy Watch 5 Pro next week, too. You might not get the knurled bezel of previous Samsung smartwatches, but the Pro would upgrade from a steel case to light-but-strong titanium. Samsung inadvertently hinted at the Pro name in its Health app, although it didn’t provide further clues.

Samsung Unpacked will stream on Wednesday, August 10th at 9 AM ET, and we’re reporting live on all the big reveals. We’ll probably have some minty fresh opinions on foldable phones, too.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missedThe best Nintendo Switch games for 2022A guide for beginners, from A to Z trigger.

The Switch continues to approach the status of Nintendo’s best-selling “home console” ever — and seven Switch games have already outsold the Wii U console. It’s thanks to the Switch’s unique hybrid format and an ever-growing game library with uncharacteristically strong third-party support. However, the Switch's online store isn't the easiest to navigate, so this guide helps the uninitiated start their journey on the right foot, once again updated for 2022.

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Paramount+ hits 43 million subscribersIt's not just leaning on Star Trek. Well, not completely.

ViacomCBS has revealed that Paramount+ added 3.7 million subscribers in the second quarter, with more than 43 million total users. And that's after withdrawing from Russia. The company partly credited the surge of expansions to more countries, including the UK, Ireland and South Korea. These gains are good, but the overall Paramount+ subscriber count is still tiny compared to Netflix (220.7 million) and Amazon Prime Video (over 200 million).

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Something is making the Earth spin faster and days shorterA negative leap second may be needed to correct clocks.TMABuena Vista Images via Getty Images

Sure, it sounds like some bleak sci-fi premise, but it’s happening. According to scientists, midnight on June 29th arrived 1.59 milliseconds sooner than expected. It was the shortest day in over half a century. Scientists believe earthquakes, stronger winds in El Niño years, ice caps melting and refreezing, the Moon and the climate could all affect rotation speed. Some have suggested the Chandler wobble — a small deviation in the Earth’s point of rotation — may be having an effect, too.

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Microsoft is testing an Xbox Game Pass family planFolks in Ireland and Colombia can try it out now.

After months of rumors, Microsoft is starting to test an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate family plan in the wild. Xbox Insiders in Colombia and Ireland can try out the new offering that allows them to add up to four other people to their plan, as long as they're in the same country. Those folks will get access to all the benefits of Game Pass Ultimate, including a library of hundreds of titles for console, PC and cloud gaming. If you're in either country, you can buy the Xbox Game Pass — Insider Preview plan from the Microsoft Store, though enrolment is limited.

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Instagram is expanding NFT features to more than 100 countriesThe app started a public test of NFTs in feed posts, messages and Stories in May.

Once we’ve all collectively sighed, Instagram is doubling down on digital collectibles. After a test launch in May, the app is expanding its NFT features to more than 100 countries across Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas. Instagram users can include NFTs in their feed and messages, as well as in augmented reality stickers in Stories. NFT creators and collectors are automatically tagged for attribution. You can't buy or sell NFTs on Instagram just yet, but the company has strongly hinted it's working on a marketplace. Perfect timing, Meta: The non-fungible token (NFT) market just fell off a cliff.

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NASA develops ingenious solution to fix its troubled ‘Lucy’ asteroid explorer

Fri, 2022-08-05 06:03

Last year, NASA launched the Lucy spacecraft designed to explore the Trojan asteroids trapped near Jupiter's Lagrange points. However, a problem arose just 12 hours after launch — one of the large solar arrays designed to generate power from an increasingly distant Sun had failed to fully deploy and latch. Now, NASA has announced that a team was able to troubleshoot the problem sufficiently for the mission to continue — thanks to several clever tricks. 

Hours after the problem was first discovered, NASA pulled together an anomaly response team with members from the science mission lead Southwest Research Institute, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the spacecraft's builder, Northrop Grumman. 

Since there's no camera aimed at the solar arrays, the team had to figure out another way to find the problem. To that end, they fired the spacecraft's thrusters to measure any anomalous vibrations, and created a detailed model of the array's motor assembly to determine the array's rigidness. They finally figured out that a lanyard designed to pull the array open was probably snagged on its spool. 

The team quickly honed in on two potential solutions. One was simply to use the array as it was, because it was still generating 90 percent of expected power. The other was to attempt to pull the lanyard harder by using the back-up deployment motor as well as the primary motor, hopefully allowing it to wind further and engage the latching mechanism. 

Both motors were never designed to work at the same time, so the team modeled it to test out possible outcomes and potential ripple effects. After months of simulations, they decided to proceed with the two-motor option. They ran both the primary and backup solar deployment motors simultaneously seven times, and succeeded in further opening and tensioning the array. 

Unfortunately, it didn't close enough to latch, but it's now "under substantially more tension, making it stable enough for the spacecraft to operate as needed for mission operations," NASA said. It's now "ready and able" to complete its next deadline, getting a boost from Earth's gravity in October 2022. It's scheduled to arrive at its first asteroid target in 2025. 

Virgin Galactic postpones space tourism flights again

Fri, 2022-08-05 04:45

Virgin Galactic has announced that its commercial space tourism service has been delayed yet again, from the end of this year until Q2 2023. During its earnings report, the company said that the delay is "due to the extended completion dates [i.e., delays] within the mothership enhancement program."

The mothership VMS Eve is a crucial part of its launch system, carrying the VSS Unity spacecraft to 50,000 feet before it launches to the edge of space. The enhancement program launched July 7th with the aim of improving flight frequency, along with "reliability, predictability and durability." 

At the same time it revealed the updates, Virgin Galactic announced that Boeing's Aurora Flight Sciences will design and manufacture its next-gen motherships, expected to enter service in 2025. The company is also working on a new spaceship, the VSS Imagine, set to make a debut test flight in Q1 2023. 

Virgin Galactic had already delayed its first paid flights from Q3 to Q4 2022 out of an "abundance of caution" due to a possible flight control system issue. The next flight was supposed to launch three Italian Air Force members to the edge of space, to study the effects of transitioning from regular Earth gravity to microgravity on both humans and the environment. Yesterday, the company reported a $111 million quarterly loss and plans a $300 million stock offering.

Elon Musk accuses Twitter of fraud for hiding real number of fake accounts

Fri, 2022-08-05 03:32

Elon Musk is accusing Twitter of fraud for hiding the real number of bots on its platform, according to The New York Times. In the latest installment of the Twitter-vs-Musk saga, the Tesla chief's team claimed in a legal filing that 10 percent of the social network's daily active users who see ads are inauthentic accounts. If you'll recall, Twitter has long maintained that bots represent less than five percent of its userbase, and Musk put his planned acquisition of the social network on hold in mid-July to confirm if that's accurate. 

The Tesla and SpaceX chief, who's also a prolific Twitter user, launched an aggressive takeover of the social network in April after it became the company's largest shareholder. While Twitter quickly accepted his offer, they butted heads over the number of fake accounts on the platform shortly after that — he also accused the company of not giving him access to enough information to verify the number of bots on the website. Twitter gave him full access to its internal data in response, but in the end, Musk told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he wanted to terminate the acquisition over "false and misleading representations" made by the social network. 

Twitter sued its largest shareholder for trying to back out of its $44 billion buyout deal, telling the court that Musk is wrongfully breaking their agreement by doing so. The website accused him of backing out because Tesla's and Twitter's shares went down due to the economic downturn and the "deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests."

In this new filing, Musk's camp said its analysts found a much higher number of inauthentic accounts than Twitter claimed using Botometer. That's a machine learning algorithm designed by Indiana University that "checks the activity of Twitter accounts and gives them a score based on how likely they are to be bots." Musk's lawyers said the social network concealed its bot problem to get Musk to agree to buy the company "at an inflated price." They also said:

"Twitter was miscounting the number of false and spam accounts on its platform, as part of its scheme to mislead investors about the company’s prospects. Twitter’s disclosures have slowly unraveled, with Twitter frantically closing the gates on information in a desperate bid to prevent the Musk parties from uncovering its fraud."

Twitter fired back with its own legal filing, calling his claims "factually inaccurate, legally insufficient and commercially irrelevant." The company said the Botometer is unreliable and had once given Musk's own Twitter account a score indicating that it's "highly likely to be a bot." Twitter's lawsuit against Musk is heading to court in October.