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Vampire Survivors hits PlayStation this summer

Wed, 2024-04-10 13:45

Vampire Survivors is preparing to invade a whole new platform. More than two years after breaking through the noise on Steam, Android, iOS and Xbox, Vampire Survivors is due to hit PlayStation 4 and PS5 in summer 2024. Yep, the summer that starts in just a few months. The PlayStation version will include all DLCs and latest updates.

Alongside the fresh platform announcement, Vampire Survivors is also getting a batch of crossover DLC on May 9. Vampire Survivors: Operation Guns brings Contra characters and weapons into the game with the mission statement, "The President’s cousin’s sister’s dog has been kidnapped by Red Falcon. Are you bad enough to come to the rescue?" We bet you are.

In classic Contra fashion, the characters added in Operation Guns will encourage min-maxing and stat manipulation, and there will be 11 new players total. The DLC adds 22 guns, a new stage and an old-school arcade difficulty curve. Its soundtrack has six songs that combine Contra jams with Vampire Survivors remixes.

Who said vampires don't like sunlight? With two big updates landing this spring and summer, it seems like Vampire Survivors enjoys the light just fine. Of course, that could be because there are no actual vampires in the game, just hordes of other monster types and hours of mindless, bloody entertainment.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/vampire-survivors-hits-playstation-this-summer-174515287.html?src=rss

Massively co-op game 33 Immortals will have a closed beta at the end of May

Wed, 2024-04-10 13:40

33 Immortals feels like a game that's going to need a lot of pre-release testing, and thankfully, that's exactly what developers at Thunder Lotus are setting up. Following a smaller alpha test, the closed beta for 33 Immortals will kick off on May 24 and run through June 2. Interested players can sign up to participate at the game's official site.

Aside from the Dante's Inferno-inspired landscape and retro-cartoony visuals, the unique draw of 33 Immortals is its raid size. The game features 33-player co-op with a cast of seven unique fighters, and each round lasts about 25 minutes. It's all raids, all the time, and felled players are able to be revived if another warrior takes the time to chase down their ghost.

UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith got his hands on 33 Immortals at Summer Game Fest 2023 and he saw the potential in Thunder Lotus' idea, writing, "With plenty of enemies on-screen, especially in the more challenging portal dungeons, it’s a lot of fun just chaotically spamming attacks, helping the rest of your team finish off mid-bosses, or picking off easier foes at a distance before they coordinate their attacks." And that was with just six players at once — now add 27 more, and that's the base chaos level of this game.

33 Immortals is due to enter early access on the Epic Games Store, Xbox Series X/S and PC via Xbox later this year, and it'll be available on Game Pass.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/massively-co-op-game-33-immortals-will-have-a-closed-beta-at-the-end-of-may-174022411.html?src=rss

The EA Play subscription service is getting more expensive

Wed, 2024-04-10 13:29

Electronic Arts just raised the price of its EA Play subscription service. The standard EA Play tier increased from $5 per month to $6 per month, while the annual fee rose to $40 from $30. These updated prices also impact premium EA Play Pro subscriptions, which allows access to the publisher’s games as soon as they launch. This tier now costs $17 per month, an increase from $15, and $120 each year, an increase from $100. 

EA confirmed the changes to Engadget via email and noted that the prices are increasing in every country the company does business in. According to a report by Gamesindustry.biz, the new cost structure was decided on to “bring fees in line with market value.” The price increase is live for new members but pre-existing subscribers won't get dinged until May 10. 

For the uninitiated, EA Play is a subscription service that gives players access to a select number of games from the company, along with additional incentives like discounts and DLC. It’s available on Xbox consoles, PlayStation consoles and PC. The service is in line with Microsoft Game Pass, PlayStation Plus and Ubisoft+, among others. As previously mentioned, EA Play Pro takes things a step further by letting subscribers play newly-released games. It's worth noting that Game Pass Ultimate members still have access to the standard EA Play tier as part of their subscription.

It’s always a bummer when these subscriptions go up in price, and EA is hardly alone here. Sony raised the price of PS Plus last year and Microsoft did the same for Game Pass subscriptions. Ubisoft+ Premium is likely the closest analog to Play Pro and it costs $18 per month, which is right in line with EA’s updated pricing model.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-ea-play-subscription-service-is-getting-more-expensive-172942011.html?src=rss

Amazon will stop paying bonuses to Alexa developers

Wed, 2024-04-10 13:16

Amazon has decided to cut off paid perks for Alexa developers. The company confirmed to Engadget on Wednesday that it will end the Alexa Developer Rewards Program at the end of June. A second program that rewards developers for using Amazon Web Services as the backend for their Alexa apps will wrap up at the same time.

With the emergence of generative AI, the pioneering voice assistant’s third-party apps (“skills”) no longer appear to be a central focus for the company. The news was first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Engadget with the company.

Amazon described the move as a case of phasing out an old project that had run its course. “These are older programs launched back in 2017 as a way to help newer developers interested in building skills accelerate their progress,” an Amazon spokesperson wrote to Engadget. “Today, there are over 160,000 skills available for customers, a well-established Alexa developer community, and new LLM-powered tools that will help developers build new experiences for Alexa. These older programs have simply run their course, so we decided to sunset them.”

The company told me the program launched when developers were still learning to make voice apps, and it was designed to help them get started. Amazon told Engadget that fewer than one percent of developers were using the program. It said Alexa developers will still get paid for in-app purchases from their Alexa skills, adding that the cost of making them has gone down while developer knowledge has gone up.

The Alexa Developer Rewards Program was created to incentivize developers who made high-quality skills for the assistant. Launched in 2017, when Alexa was all the rage, the program paid developers bonuses for skills that met engagement thresholds in specific categories. It was part of Amazon’s quest to turn Alexa Skills into a booming app store for a new generation of voice-first devices, a vision that never fully came to fruition.

Now, the renewed interest in AI assistants is about generative AI, which can handle many of the same tasks as Alexa’s skills (likely much better in some cases). At its fall 2023 devices event, Amazon previewed a next-generation version of Alexa with ChatGPT-like generative AI abilities. The company has also gradually integrated the next-gen tech into its seller tools and product pages.

Bloomberg reports that third-party apps weren’t making Amazon much money (unsurprising, given today’s news). The company cut the available funds for Alexa developer payments in 2020. Amazon also laid off several hundred employees in its Alexa division late last year. Meanwhile, Google threw in the towel long ago: It eliminated third-party voice apps for Google Assistant altogether in 2022.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-will-stop-paying-bonuses-to-alexa-developers-171610161.html?src=rss

Marshall portable speakers are up to 25 percent off right now

Wed, 2024-04-10 12:40

Marshall portable speakers are up to 25 percent off right now via Amazon. The sale includes the attractive and highly useful Middleton speaker, which is available for $237. This is a discount of 21 percent and marks a record low for the portable Bluetooth device.

The Middleton made our list of the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and for good reason. It’s the company’s flagship portable speaker, so it’s packed with both bells and whistles. It offers 50-watts of 360-degree sound and a rugged IP67 exterior. There are dual woofers and tweeters for the front and back, in addition to passive radiators along the side. In other words, people attending your backyard barbecue will have no problem hearing the tunes, and the same could be true of your neighbors.

The speaker also features the company’s Stack Mode, allowing it to easily pair with other Marshall speakers. This includes other Middleton units, the Willen and the Emberton II. We also enjoyed the multi-use joystick that can turn the unit on, change the volume, select tracks and adjust bass and treble.

Marshall’s Willen speaker is also part of this sale, with a current price of $90. That’s 25 percent off. This diminutive, yet powerful, speaker made our list of the best gadgets of 2023. We praised the sound quality, the reliable Bluetooth connection and the battery, which lasts over 15 hours per charge. It’s just about the perfect little speaker, especially for the price.

The sale goes beyond portable speakers. Marshall’s Minor III earbuds are on sale for $100, which is a discount of $30. These no-frills headphones feature custom-tuned 12mm drivers, touch controls and IPX4 water resistance. You can expect around five hours per charge, with the included charging case offering an additional 20 hours.

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/marshall-portable-speakers-are-up-to-25-percent-off-right-now-164056685.html?src=rss

One of our favorite affordable robot vacuums is on sale for $140

Wed, 2024-04-10 12:32

If you're just looking for a cheap way to keep your floors cleaner and don't need all the top-end features, you may want to check out this deal. Anker brand Eufy's BoostIQ RoboVac S11 is now down to $140 after a 44 percent discount. The sale comes as part of a larger sale on Eufy vacs, including ones with a few more bells and whistles. The S11 Max is our current pick for an ultra budget option in our buyer's guide to robo vacs because it's super affordable (especially after the discount), has good suction power and a long battery life. Probably the biggest caveat is that it's not Wi-Fi enabled. 

Instead of controlling the unit through your home's wireless network, the 11S Max comes with a remote that handles scheduling and other smart features like cleaning mode selection. It also has a manual button up top to start a session. It has three power modes — Standard, BoostIQ and Max — and BoostIQ provides a good balance of adequate suction and noise level. In our tests, a BoostIQ session lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. The obstacle avoidance is impressive at sidestepping random objects, though it occasionally bumped into walls. The vac is also about an inch an a half thinner than many other robot vacs we tested, which lets it get beneath low-slung furniture for more complete cleaning.  

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/one-of-our-favorite-affordable-robot-vacuums-is-on-sale-for-140-163249182.html?src=rss

Sony is bringing another game to the PS Plus Catalog on its release day

Wed, 2024-04-10 12:25

Sony has revealed the latest batch of games that are coming to the PS Plus Catalog for Extra and Premium subscribers. This time around, there are three titles that will hit the service on the same day they debut on PlayStation. It had already been announced that the terrific Dave the Diver (April 16) and Tales of Kenzera: Zau (April 23) will hit the subscription service when they make their bow on PlayStation consoles. Now it has emerged Animal Well will join them on May 9.

This sidescrolling platformer is the first game from YouTuber Dunkey's publishing label, Bigmode. Solo developer Billy Basso spent seven years making the eye-catching Animal Well, which is said to be packed with secrets for players to discover. Along with PS5, Animal Well is coming to Switch and PC.

There haven't been too many games that have arrived on PS Plus on their release day, but the strategy can prove successful. Humanity, Stray, Teardown and Tchia, all of which are excellent, debuted on the subscription service. Going further back, so too did Rocket League and Fall Guys and those games were enormous hits, though they had the advantage of being multiplayer titles. On the other side of the platform divide, Palworld (aka the Pokémon with guns game) became a viral smash this year, thanks in part to it hitting Game Pass on its release day.

The other titles that are coming to the PS Plus Catalog on April 16 are multiplayer party game Oddballers (PS4), Construction Simulator (PS4, PS5), The Crew 2 (PS4), Indian mythology-inspired action-adventure Raji: An Ancient Epic (PS4, PS5), Lego Ninjago Movie Videogame (PS4), Nour: Play With Your Food (PS4, PS5), Deliver Us Mars (PS4, PS5), Lego Marvel’s Avengers (PS4), Miasma Chronicles (PS5) and Stray Blade (PS5).

Those with a PS Plus Premium subscription will be able to check out a few extra games through the Classics collection. The original PlayStation versions of Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire and MediEvil will hit the catalog next week.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sony-is-bringing-another-game-to-the-ps-plus-catalog-on-its-release-day-162541995.html?src=rss

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2024) review : This is the 14-inch gaming laptop to beat

Wed, 2024-04-10 12:15

ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus G14 has been one of our favorite gaming laptops for damn near half a decade. But the 2024 model is on another level. That’s because even without a fresh generation of GPUs from NVIDIA, ASUS went and redesigned the entire thing anyway. And the result is a notebook with a gorgeous aluminum unibody chassis with a more mature design that doesn’t need to throw RGB lighting in your face to get some attention. This edition is also sleeker and lighter while still providing powerful performance. Though ASUS made a few trade-offs when compared to its predecessor, with a starting price of $1,600, the new ROG Zephyrus G14 is not only a better value than almost all of its 14-inch rivals, it’s also simply one of the best pound-for-pound gaming laptops around.

Design

Compared to previous models that were awash in RGB or had dot-matrix displays built into their lids, this year’s G14 is an exercise in restraint. It’s almost like the line has grown out of its awkward teenage phase and become a stylish but still fun-loving adult. The lid is accented by a simple diagonal slash with white (not RGB) LEDs embedded down the middle. Meanwhile, on the inside, there’s a sturdy deck with a large touchpad and surprisingly powerful speakers.

The one thing I miss is per-key RGB lighting instead of ASUS’ single-zone approach. After all, this is a gaming laptop and if you’re going to offer multiple colors, it’d be nice to have full customizability.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 features a gorgeous unibody aluminum design. We just wish its keyboard supported per-key RGB lighting instead of ASUS' single-zone setup. Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That said, the G14’s redesign isn’t just about style, it’s functional too. The switch to a unibody aluminum frame has strengthened the whole machine. There’s barely a hint of flex even on typically weaker parts like the lattice between keys. But more importantly, ASUS also reduced the laptop's weight to just 3.3 pounds, which is noticeably lighter than rival notebooks with similar metal builds like the Razer Blade 14 (3.95 pounds). Plus, even with the smaller size, the G14 features a healthy selection of ports including a full-size HDMI 2.1 jack, two USB-C (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4), two USB-A and a microSD card reader.

Display The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 features a gorgeous 14-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and vibrant colors. Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Another glowing component of the G14 is its OLED screen. In addition to producing vibrant colors, it has a sharp 2,880 x 1,800 resolution along with a 120Hz refresh rate and a color gamut that covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 spectrum. Recently, I’ve been watching Three Body Problem and I’ve been absolutely loving the OLED panel’s excellent contrast and deep blacks. Furthermore, because ASUS includes a handful of color-calibrated settings for sRGB, D65 P3, DCI-P3 (but not Adobe RGB), the G14 is a very capable photo- and video-editing machine.

The one small issue is that because 2,880 x 1,800 is a somewhat uncommon resolution, you may not be able to play all of your games at their native resolution, which is an issue I encountered when playing Returnal.

Performance

A big change for the 2024 ROG G14 is that GPU options now top out with an NVIDIA RTX 4070 instead of a 4080 like on the previous model. That may be a bummer for some, but as I prefer laptops that are easier to carry around, I’m OK with trading out a little top-end oomph for enhanced portability. And with all models featuring an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS chip along with at least 16GB of RAM (or 32GB like on my review unit) and 1TB of storage, you won’t be lacking in speed.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 even includes a microSD card reader to make transferring media to the computer from a camera a bit easier. Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

On Geekbench 6, the G14 matched the performance we saw from a larger XPS 16 with an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H chip. In games, it hit 90 fps in Cyberpunk 2077 on ultra settings, which is just shy of a much more expensive Razer Blade 14 (101 fps). That said, there are some important details you should know. Unlike previous models, the latest G14’s memory is soldered to the motherboard, so there’s no way to add extra RAM later. Additionally, while both ASUS and Razer’s 14-inch systems appear to have the same RTX 4070 GPU, the G14’s is capped at 90 watts versus 140 watts for the Blade, which explains the small gap in gaming performance.

It’s also worth noting that heat can be an issue in certain situations. In normal use, it’s not a big deal as the fans rarely need to spin up when browsing the web or watching movies. But under load, because the G14’s vents are on the bottom of the notebook, your lap can get toasty fast. Thankfully, this won’t be a major problem if you’re gaming, since you’ll probably want to be at a desk or table to put an external mouse on anyway.

Battery life The ROG Zephyrus G14 has a wealth of ports including ASUS' new Slim Power Jack ( far left).Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

While the G14 doesn’t last quite as long as a traditional ultrabook, it still carries enough juice to last nearly an entire workday. On PCMark 10’s Modern Office rundown test, it lasted 7 hours and 29 minutes which is slightly better than the Razer Blade 14’s time of 6:46. And, new for 2024, ASUS has added its proprietary Slim Power Jack, which sort of looks like a USB-C port if you squint (but it isn’t). However, if you want to really travel light, the G14 supports charging via USB-C so you can leave the adapter at home. The one caveat is that USB-PD on this maxes out at 100 watts (versus 180 watts when using the included brick), so the battery may still discharge while gaming or performing other intensive tasks.

Wrap-up

Even though we already loved its predecessors, the 2024 ROG Zephyrus G14 has managed to take another big leap. It’s got an exquisitely crafted chassis along with a vibrant new display and boomier speakers – all while shedding nearly half a pound in weight. On the inside, you still get up to an RTX 4070 GPU. Sure, it’s a touch slower than a similarly equipped Blade 14, but considering our review unit costs $2,000 compared to $2,700 for the closest equivalently specced Razer, I’m happy to trade a tiny bit of performance to get a much more affordable machine. And that’s before you factor in a starting price of just $1,450 for one with an RTX 4060. My biggest gripe is that ASUS’ Amoury Crate app still feels clunky, thanks to settings that are hard to find or toggles that don’t work like you’d expect. But make no mistake, the G14 is a great laptop – for both gamers and content creators – who want good performance in a portable package. So while I appreciate what the Blade 14 and other high-end notebooks can do, ASUS’ latest creation is the one I’d buy.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/asus-rog-zephyrus-g14-2024-review--this-is-the-14-inch-gaming-laptop-to-beat-161524669.html?src=rss

Google Photos' enhanced editing tools will no longer require a subscription

Wed, 2024-04-10 12:00

In a rare move, Google is extending everyone access to subscriber-exclusive Photos tools. Free Google Photos users are getting its enhanced editing features without paying a minimum of $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.

Photo UnBlur works just as it sounds, giving greater clarity to a photo that's a bit fuzzy. The Magic Eraser tool lets you remove or camouflage people or things from pictures, like a rogue trash can or photo bomber. Magic Editor uses generative AI to move, stretch and resize objects. You can even bring yourself to the center of a photo or closer to another person. It also lets you make large-scale edits, like changing the sky from gray to blue. Magic Editor Android and iOS Google Photos users will get ten monthly saves, while anyone looking to increase that limit will need either a Pixel device or paid Google One plan with 2TB+.

The Google Photos features will roll out to non-subscribers over a few weeks, starting May 15. On desktop, they will only be available if you have a Chromebook Plus that has ChromeOS version 118+. To access on mobile, you'll need at least Android 8.0 or iOS 15 and 3GB of RAM. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-photos-enhanced-editing-tools-will-no-longer-require-a-subscription-160015336.html?src=rss

Physicist Peter Higgs, who predicted 'the God particle', has died at 94

Wed, 2024-04-10 11:36

Peter Higgs, the physicist who predicted the Higgs boson particle, has passed away at the age of 94 due to a blood disorder. His work proposing the particle — and showing how it helped give mass to some matter — won him the Noble price in 2013. The Higgs boson is informally referred to as the God particle, after a book by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman.

Higgs came up with the idea in the early 1960s as an attempt to explain why atoms have mass in the first place. The research didn’t get any traction in scientific journals, primarily because few understood the concept, but he was finally published in 1964. This was just a theory at the time, but led to a 50-year race to prove the Higgs boson particle actually exists.

Scientists hit pay dirt in 2012, thanks to physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. It took four years of experiments, but the Higgs boson particle was finally discovered, proving his ideas and adding a major puzzle piece to the corpus of particle physics knowledge known as the Standard Model.

As a matter of fact, modern theoretical physicists have posited the existence of up to five Higgs boson particles that fill up what is now called the Higgs field. Scientists hope to use the Higgs boson to one day find proof for ever-elusive dark matter.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel, wrote about the importance of his discovery ahead of the ceremony in 2013. “Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass.” The Nobel was shared with François Englert, a Belgian theoretical physicist whose work in 1964 contributed to the discovery.

"At the beginning I had no idea whether a discovery would be made in my lifetime”, Higgs once said. He leaves two sons, Chris and Jonny, his daughter-in-law Suzanne and two grandchildren. His former wife Jody, a linguistics professor, died in 2008.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/physicist-peter-higgs-who-predicted-the-god-particle-has-died-at-94-153635259.html?src=rss

How to watch The Triple-i Initiative indie game showcase at 1PM ET

Wed, 2024-04-10 11:00

Summer Game Fest is still a couple of months away, as are major events from the likes of Ubisoft and Xbox. But you won't have to wait that long for a smorgasbord of gaming announcements. A bunch of notable names in the indie gaming space have come together to host the first showcase from The Triple-i Initiative.

The stream will start at 1PM ET on April 10 and run for around 45 minutes. You'll be able to watch it above or on YouTube, Twitch, bilibili or Steam. The showcase will include world premieres, exclusive looks at gameplay, demo announcements and details of a sale.

The organizers are promising more than 30 announcements with "no hosting segments, no advertisements, no sponsorships, no extra fluff, just games,” according to ​Benjamin Laulan, the COO of Dead Cells developer Evil Empire. That studio came up with the idea of The Triple-i Initiative (Triple-i is a riff on AAA, a signifier of high-budget, high-profile games) a couple of months ago.

A bunch of notable developers have joined the collective. They include Red Hook (Darkest Dungeon), Mega Crit Games (Slay the Spire), Poncle (Vampire Survivors), Thunder Lotus (Spiritfarer), Re-Logic (Terraria), Extremely OK Games (Celeste) and Heart Machine (Hyper Light Breaker). In other words, the studios behind many of the biggest indie games of the last several years are on board, so this will be a showcase worth paying attention to.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/how-to-watch-the-triple-i-initiative-indie-game-showcase-at-1pm-et-150048553.html?src=rss

Blizzard games are returning to China this summer

Wed, 2024-04-10 10:51

Blizzard’s games will once again be available in China, over 15 months after titles such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch 2 went offline in the planet's largest gaming market. Blizzard has renewed its licensing agreement with long-time partner NetEase and many of its games will return to mainland China in the coming months.

NetEase oversaw Blizzard games in China for 15 years, but their agreement expired in January 2023, leading to the likes of Hearthstone and Starcraft shutting down in the country. The two sides had kept discussions going over the last year and they finally reached a new deal.

It'll take a little while for Blizzard and NetEase to resolve technical issues and get things in place for the relaunch, but the games are expected to come back online in China starting this summer. According to Bloomberg, players will be able to resume progress they’d previously made on their accounts.

Blizzard could be set for a notable boost to its bottom line with its games coming back to China. Overwatch is one of its more popular games there — the country is said to have made up most of the Overwatch League’s viewership in the circuit’s later seasons. One pro team based in China didn’t play at all during OWL’s final season in 2023.

In addition, Chinese players will for the first time officially be able to play Diablo IV, which Blizzard released last June and was an instant hit. (Diablo Immortal remained available in China during the spat with NetEase as that game was subject to a separate agreement.)

Meanwhile, Blizzard’s parent company Microsoft has struck a separate deal with NetEase. They’ll explore the possibility of bringing NetEase games to Xbox consoles and other platforms.

“Blizzard and NetEase have done incredible work to renew our commitment to players — Blizzard’s universes have been part of players’ lives in the region for many years,” Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, said in a statement. “Returning Blizzard’s legendary games to players in China while exploring ways to bring more new titles to Xbox demonstrates our commitment to bringing more games to more players around the world.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/blizzard-games-are-returning-to-china-this-summer-145109338.html?src=rss

Apple's 10th-gen iPad returns to a record low of $349

Wed, 2024-04-10 10:36

While the arrival of new iPad Pro and Air models seems imminent, rumor has it we won't be getting a classic update until next year. If you have no interest in waiting and want to explore some of the best iPads on the market, then the Apple 10th-generation iPad's current sale is for you. The 64GB Wi-Fi model is back down to its record-low price of $349 from $449 — a 22 percent cut. The discounted iPad is available right away in the blue version or for an extra dollar when applying a $79 coupon to the silver model. 

Apple released its 10th-gen iPad in 2022 and garnered an 85 in our review. It offered a new look and features, with new design elements such as a 10.9-inch screen and a Touch ID moving to the lock button. It also offers a liquid retina display with a 2360x1640p resolution.

The 10th-gen iPad comes with an A14 chip — a step up from the ninth-gen's A13 but still not as strong as the M1 and M2 that power the iPad Air and Pro. It comes with a solid battery that lasts 11 hours and 45 minutes if you play iTunes movies on rotation and almost 10 hours when you're working with an attached keyboard. 

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/apples-10th-gen-ipad-returns-to-a-record-low-of-349-143630423.html?src=rss

Roku releases its line of premium-ish TVs with Mini LED backlighting

Wed, 2024-04-10 09:00

Roku has released a line of TVs called the Pro Series after first unveiling the collection at this year’s CES. These televisions are packed with tech, with the standout feature being Mini LED backlighting for better brightness and contrast. The 4K TVs also boast QLED panels, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and a responsive refresh rate of 120Hz. The company’s calling them the “ultimate TVs” for streaming.

To that end, the quad-core processor should allow for snappier menu navigation and for apps to launch quickly, so you can spend less time waiting on a load screen and more time binging Hulu’s Shogun while scarfing down a big bowl of popcorn. They're also Wi-Fi 6 capable, which comes in handy when streaming 4K content.

On the audio side of things, the Pro Series models include side-firing Dolby Atmos speakers for a “wide, cinematic sound.” The TVs integrate nicely with wireless soundbars, speakers and subwoofers, in addition to wired variants. Each model also features Bluetooth for connecting wireless headphones, to prevent spoilers from seeping into every corner of the house. They come with a refreshed remote control that includes motion-activated backlit buttons, USB-C charging and new shortcut options.

The Pro Series TVs feature a new neural processing unit (NPU) that allows for some nifty OS features. Smart Picture Max uses AI to automatically adjust the best picture mode for a particular piece of content, refining the color, sharpness and motion as required. This carries over to brightness, which also automatically adjusts depending on room lighting.

While Smart Picture Max might be tied to the Pro Series line of TVs, due to the updated NPU, there are more OS features coming to all Roku panels. The company’s televisions will soon get something called Backdrops, which are basically just fancy screensavers pulled from a wide catalog of popular artwork or via uploaded images. This won’t exactly turn a Roku into a Samsung Frame TV, but it’s a start.

The Roku Backdrops feature in action.Roku

Roku TVs are also getting deep integration with IMDB in a forthcoming OS update. This will provide data sourced from the site as you scroll through potential shows and movies to watch. Finally, the mobile app is receiving a comprehensive upgrade, complete with a streamlined design, better search and new content categories.

The Pro Series line is available now from Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart. Prices start at $900 for the 55-inch model and rise up to $1,700 for the chunky 75-inch version. There’s also a wall-mount kit available for $100.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/roku-releases-its-line-of-premium-ish-tvs-with-mini-led-backlighting-130047599.html?src=rss

The best ergonomic keyboards for 2024

Wed, 2024-04-10 09:00

It’s tough to give a blanket recommendation for ergonomics, as the term most accurately translates to “what works best for your body” — and all bodies are different. But if you’ve landed here, chances are you’re looking for a keyboard that’s easier on your shoulders, neck and wrists. Traditional keyboards keep your arms close together and force you to splay your hands outward. After a while, that can feel straining. By shifting the orientation of the keys, ergonomic keyboards can keep your upper body in a more neutral position, preventing you from twisting or over-extending your hands and arms. We’ve broken down the various features that make some boards more body-friendly than others and tested a handful to come up with the best ergonomic keyboards to suit different needs and preferences.

What to look for in an ergonomic keyboard Alice vs split

Most ergonomic keyboard layouts fall into two categories: Alice and split. The former is a single board with the two halves of the keys rotated about 30 degrees apart at the bottom. The separation forms an A-shaped space between the keys — which has nothing to do with why it’s called an Alice layout, it’s just a happy coincidence. This subtle tweak pushes your elbows away from your ribs while keeping a straight line from your forearm to your middle knuckle. Using one, I pretty instantly felt more open along the front side of my body. This layout more closely resembles a traditional keyboard, so it should be easier for most folks to get used to than a fully split option.

Speaking of, split boards break the keys into two separate parts you can position individually. You can put them shoulder distance apart, bring them closer together or angle them as much as feels comfortable. You can also put your mouse between the halves, which may feel like an easier trip for your cursor hand. Personally, I like being able to put my current snack between the two parts.

Tenkeyless

You can find ergonomic keyboards with and without number pads. Not having those number keys on the right side lets you keep your mouse closer in, minimizing overall reach. But if you work with numbers a lot, you’ll likely want that pad included. Some programmable boards allow for the use of layers, which temporarily repurpose keys and can provide you with a ten-key option through clever remapping of letter keys.

Tenting and negative tilt

Tenting raises the middle of the keyboard up, so your hands move closer to a “handshake” position. Alice keyboards usually angle up towards the middle and always to a fixed degree, since the two sides are connected. Split boards often let you adjust the degree of tenting, going from flat to subtle to extreme lift.

You may have encountered keyboards with an optional lift at the back of the board, raising the top keys higher than the space bar. Every set of hands is different, but for most people, pulling the backs of the hands towards the forearms increases strain. Negative tilt has the opposite effect by sloping in the other direction, lowering the top number keys while raising the edge with the spacebar. Many Alice and some split keyboards offer an optional negative tilt. I found it was more comfortable to enable that feature when I’m standing, and I preferred to have the keys flat when sat at my desk.

Staggered vs columnar

This decision seems to be one of the more hotly-contested among ergo enthusiasts. A standard keyboard has staggered keys, with each row slightly offset to the rows above and below it — so the A key is about halfway between the Q and W above it. This is a holdover from vintage mechanical typewriters, in which each press activated a hammer that smashed ink onto paper in the shape of a letter. To fit the hammers as close together as possible, while still allowing for finger pads, the keys were staggered.

Columnar or ortholinear keyboards stack the keys in orderly columns, often with rows that are not linear. Proponents claim this makes the keys easier to reach. Whether that’s true will be up to your fingers to decide, but I can say for certain that if you learned to type on a staggered keyboard, switching to a columnar layout is tough. It will take days, possibly weeks before you instinctively hit the C key. The N, M and B keys don’t fare much better.

Programmable keys

With a few exceptions, most ergonomic keyboards will work with PCs or Macs as a standard typing input, but the use of function and hot keys may require some remapping. It can be as easy as an onboard switch to toggle between Mac and PC layouts, or as involved as downloading software to change up the keys. Some boards even include (or let you buy) extra keycaps to change, say, the Mac’s Command and Option keys to PC’s Start and Alt buttons.

For some boards, remapping or programming keys is a crucial feature. Gaming peripherals have extra keys that you can set to execute a series of keystrokes with the push of a single button. Keyboards that work with layers, in which a single button can perform several functions, typically allow you to change what those are. Some ergonomic keyboards have non-standard layouts, like thumb clusters with multiple keys near the space bar that you operate with your thumb. You’ll also be able to program those.

Other considerations

Ergonomic keyboards come in mechanical, membrane, and scissor switch versions. Which works best for you is, again, up to your preference. I won’t get too deep into the particulars here, but the short of it is that membrane and scissor switches are less customizable than mechanical and typically cheaper. Typing on them tends to be quieter and softer. Mechanical switches are more customizable, offer a more responsive typing experience and are usually pricier.

You’ll also have the option of wired or wireless ergonomic boards. All other things being equal, wired models are less expensive. Competitive gamers who rely on split-second responses may prefer the zero-lag of wired keyboards. Wired models also never run out of battery life and have fewer connectivity issues. But wireless keyboards keep your desk less cluttered.

Some ergonomic keyboards come with permanent or removable wrist or palm rests, which can be cushioned or hard. This is another area where opinions diverge: proponents claim they help you maintain a neutral hand position, while detractors say they put pressure on the tendons in your wrist. Ideally, your palms should be resting, not your wrists, and you might find you like having that support or you may find the pressure uncomfortable. 

A closeup shot of an ergonomic keyboard that shows the two sides splitting apart. Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget How we tested

All our guides begin with extensive research to figure out what’s out there and what’s worth testing. We consider brands with good reputations that we’ve heard good things about from colleagues and other trusted publications. For this guide, I looked for keyboards with ergonomic features like tenting, split keys, palm support and so on. I also zeroed in on boards that didn’t require a deep amount of familiarity with the vast and exhaustive world of custom keyboards.

Once I settled on ten boards, I acquired them and used each one for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. I tried out the remapping and macros software and considered the comfort, design, price and durability of each model before arriving at picks I think will work best for the most people out there.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-ergonomic-keyboard-130047982.html?src=rss

The Fallout TV series is V.A.T.S. (a very awesome TV show)

Wed, 2024-04-10 09:00

Fallout’s transition to TV starts with a bang (or three depending on how you’re counting). But even after the show emerges from the vault, the hits keep coming. That’s because unlike a lot of other video game adaptations that receive a thin veneer designed to appeal to fans of the source material, the essence of Fallout runs so deep throughout this series it could weather an atomic blast. Its characters are magnetic and its visuals are downright impressive. But most importantly, just like HBO’s The Last of Us, Fallout is more than just a video game adaptation. It’s a really good show in its own right – an apocalyptically good one at that.

The first thing that stands out about the show is just how good it looks. Every set and costume is packed with detail. The clean blues and yellow of vaultsuits are the perfect counterpoint to the dilapidated buildings and shaggy clothes of surface dwellers, which look so grimy you can almost feel the rads coming out of your screen. Meanwhile, Fallout’s Power Armor might be some of the best-looking live-action mech-suits this side of Pacific Rim. Locations are also incredibly diverse and fleshed out while still paying homage to the franchise that inspired them. The settlement of Filly looks almost exactly how I imagine Megaton might appear in real life, you know, aside from having a massive bomb in the middle of town. The show’s audio is also a treat, right down to the crunchy sounds of analog electronics and all the rockin’ oldies that wafting in the background (including an obligatory playing of the Inkspots’s “I don’t want to set the world on fire”).

The Power Armor in the Fallout TV series looks incredibly good. Courtesy of Prime Video

I really liked how all the show’s easter eggs and references to the video game never felt forced. Iconic gadgets like the Pipboy help build the world while simultaneously pushing the plot forward. Even its cinematography makes callbacks to the game with slow-mo that evokes the V.A.T.S. mechanic during firefights. And all the little critters Fallout fans love and hate like rad roaches, irradiated bears and a very good canine companion make appearances that feel right at home.

Of course, all this would simply be window dressing without characters that bring the world to life. And once again the show doesn’t disappoint. As a vault dweller, Lucy MacLean (played Ella Purnelle) is the perfect foil to ease us into the world of Fallout. As she explores and adapts to the surface, we get to meet an incredible cast of characters who highlight the struggles and revel in the weirdness of a post-doomsday world. I also need to call out the casting of Walton Goggins as the Ghoul, which feels like an especially enlightened choice. This man was made for this role, and even considering some of his previous appearances in Justified and The Hateful Eight, this might be his most engaging performance yet.

Walton Goggins as the Ghoul in the Fallout TV seriesCourtesy of Prime Video

The most impressive thing about the Fallout show is how it balances several different stories with grace and intrigue. So often when you have branching plotlines, one arc drags while the others shine. But in Fallout, they are woven together so well that even if one scene goes long, the show on the whole never bores. Now I will admit that those new to the franchise may need to be a bit more patient, as Maximus’ arc and the story surrounding the Brotherhood of Steel takes some time to get rolling.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Fallout is its brutality. This is not a series for the faint of heart. Warning: There is some animal cruelty and there’s so much gore that a regular bullet wound seems tame in comparison. It’s also important to mention that the jump from pixels to live action adds even more impact to this. But coming from a franchise that’s reveled in crass and crudeness since the beginning, it would feel weird any other way.

The Brotherhood of Steel from the Fallout TV seriesCourtesy of Prime Video

As a fan of the franchise, there’s always a little trepidation when a game tests the waters of a new medium. But Fallout has absolutely nailed it. And looking back, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, because unlike Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat whose stories always felt like afterthoughts, it was the world and the characters of Fallout that kept people coming back to the wasteland. While the game may have provided the blueprint to make the show a success, this adaptation can stand on its own.

The Fallout series is available to stream today starting at 9PM ET on Amazon Prime Video.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-fallout-tv-series-is-a-very-awesome-tv-show-130039789.html?src=rss

US bill proposes AI companies list what copyrighted materials they use

Wed, 2024-04-10 08:30

The debate over using copyrighted materials in AI training systems rages on — as does uncertainty over which works AI even pulls data from. US Congressman Adam Schiff is attempting to answer the latter, introducing the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act on April 9, Billboard reports. The bill would require AI companies to outline every copyrighted work in their datasets.

"AI has the disruptive potential of changing our economy, our political system, and our day-to-day lives. We must balance the immense potential of AI with the crucial need for ethical guidelines and protections." said Congressman Schiff in a statement. He added that the bill "champions innovation while safeguarding the rights and contributions of creators, ensuring they are aware when their work contributes to AI training datasets. This is about respecting creativity in the age of AI and marrying technological progress with fairness." Organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), SAG-AFTRA and WGA have shown support for the bill.

If the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act passes, companies would need to file all relevant data use to the Register of Copyrights at least 30 days before introducing the AI tool to the public. They would also have to provide the same information retroactively for any existing tools and make updates if they considerably altered datasets. Failure to do so would result in the Copyright Office issuing a fine — the exact number would depend on a company's size and past infractions. To be clear, this wouldn't do anything to prevent AI creators from using copyrighted work, but it would provide transparency on which materials they've taken from. The ambiguity over use was on full display in a March Bloomberg interview with OpenAI CTO Mira Murati, who claimed she was unsure if the tool Sora took data from YouTube, Facebook or Instagram posts.

The bill could even give companies and artists a clearer picture when speaking out against or suing for copyright infringement — a fairly common occurrence. Take the New York Times, which sued OpenAI and Microsoft for using its articles to train chatbots without an agreement or compensation, or Sarah Silverman, who sued OpenAI (a frequent defendant) and Meta for using her books and other works to train their AI models.

The entertainment industry has also been leading calls for AI protections. AI regulation was a big sticking point in the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes last year, ending only when detailed policies around AI went into their contracts. SAG-AFTRA has recently voiced its support for California bills requiring consent from actors to use their avatars and from heirs to make AI versions of deceased individuals. It's no surprise that Congressman Schiff represents California's 30th district, which includes Hollywood, Burbank and Universal City.

Musicians are echoing their fellow creatives, with over 200 artists signing an open letter in April that calls for AI protections, the Guardian reported. "This assault on human creativity must be stopped," the letter, issued by the Artist Rights Alliance, states. "We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists' voices and likenesses, violate creators' rights, and destroy the music ecosystem." Billie Eilish, Jon Bon Jovi and Pearm Jam were among the signatories. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-bill-proposes-ai-companies-list-what-copyrighted-materials-they-use-123058589.html?src=rss

Cruise's robotaxis return to Arizona roads

Wed, 2024-04-10 08:00

Cruise will start re-deploying its autonomous vehicles after a major upheaval last year that led to a pause in its operations, the loss of its CEO and the dismissal of a big chunk of its workforce, including several executives. In a blog post on its website, the GM subsidiary said it's resuming its manual driving activities in order to gather road information and create maps for its autonomous vehicles. The first fleet of Cruise vehicles to go out on the road again will be deployed in Phoenix, Arizona, though the company plans to expand to other cities as it continues to "engage with officials and community leaders."

If you'll recall, Cruise suspended all its driverless operations a few weeks after an incident in California, wherein one of its robotaxis ran over and dragged a pedestrian who was hurled onto its path after being hit by another vehicle. Both the California DMV and the California Public Utilities Commission revoked its licenses to operate in the state due to that incident and other safety-related issues. By November last year, Cruise also suspended manned robotaxi rides as part of an expanded safety probe conducted by an independent consulting firm. 

Kyle Vogt, the company's co-founder and CEO, resigned shortly after that. The company also dismissed nine key executives following an allegation by authorities that Cruise withheld a video showing the victim in the California incident pinned underneath its vehicle. In December, the robotaxi-maker laid off 24 percent of its workforce, which was around 900 personnel. The Intercept also reported last year that it saw internal safety assessment materials concluding that Cruise's vehicles had problems recognizing children. 

Cruise said in its post that it's been conducting testing on closed courses over the past few months as it works on rebuilding trust. All the robotaxis heading to Phoenix will be human-driven vehicles without autonomous systems engaged. Its ultimate goal, of course, is to deploy fully driverless vehicles again, but the company didn't say if it has a target date and didn't share a timeline if it does have one. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/cruises-robotaxis-return-to-arizona-roads-120038794.html?src=rss

Boost Mobile's Deion Sanders-themed Moto Razr is a gold-rimmed motivation machine

Wed, 2024-04-10 08:00

Hey, you! Yes. you. Do you need some extra motivation to reach your goals or just to get your chores done? Then perhaps you could use some inspiring words from one of the most successful multisport athletes of all time, direct to your foldable telephone.

Boost Mobile will soon offer a limited-edition, Deion Sanders-themed Moto Razr. The phone has a black and gold finish (which kind of looks nice?), along with Sanders' "You Gotta Believe" mantra and his signature. If that's not enough to get you chasing after your dreams, you'll also receive weekly motivational messages from Sanders (aka Coach Prime).

Sanders played in the NFL and MLB simultaneously. He's the only athlete ever to play in a Super Bowl — which he won twice — and the World Series. If anyone knows a thing or two about success, it's this guy. 

So if you're looking for some words of wisdom to help you take the next step toward your life, love, work and/or fitness goals, having Sanders deliver them straight to your phone might be the way to go if you're so inclined. Boost hasn't revealed how much the phone will cost, but for a certain person, it may be simply priceless. For everyone else, there's YouTube.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/boost-mobiles-deion-sanders-themed-moto-razr-is-a-gold-rimmed-motivation-machine-120016650.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Drones that can charge on power lines

Wed, 2024-04-10 07:15

Battery life always limits a drone’s ability to perform tasks and get anywhere. So why not let it slurp from nearby power lines? (Well, there are reasons.) 

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark attached a gripper system to a Tarot 650 Sport drone, which they customized with an electric quadcopter propulsion system and an autopilot module. An inductive charger pulls current from the power line, enabling it to recharge five times over two hours during tests. The benefit here is that power lines already exist (duh), but there is the real concern that a drone could damage a line and knock out electricity for thousands.

— Mat Smith

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The owner of WordPress has bought Beeper, that brazen messaging app It challenged Apple and lost almost immediately.

WordPress and Tumblr owner Automattic has bought Beeper, the maker of the Beeper Mini app, which challenged Apple with iMessage tricks on Android phones, late last year. Although it ultimately lost its only USP when Apple blocked the exploit — mere days later — the incident gave the DOJ more ammunition in its antitrust suit against Apple. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Automattic paid $125 million. It’s a lot of money, especially when Automattic already owns a messaging app, Texts. No, I hadn’t heard of it either.

Continue reading.

Starlink terminals are reportedly being used by Russian forces in Ukraine There’s a thriving black market for satellite-based internet providers. TMAReuters

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Russian forces in Ukraine are using Starlink satellite internet terminals to coordinate attacks in eastern Ukraine and Crimea as well as to control drones and other forms of military tech. The Starlink hardware is reaching Russian forces via a complex network of black-market sellers. After reports in February that Russian forces were using Starlink, US House Democrats demanded Musk act, noting Russian military use of the tech is “potentially in violation of US sanctions and export controls.” Starlink can disable individual terminals.

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Congress looks into blocking piracy sites in the US The Motion Picture Association will work with politicians.

The Motion Picture Association chair and CEO Charles Rivkin has revealed a plan to make “sailing the digital seas,” so streaming or downloading pirated content, harder. Rivkin said the association is going to work with Congress to establish and enforce site-blocking legislation in the United States. He added that almost 60 countries use site-blocking as a tool against piracy.

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You can now lie down while using a Meta Quest 3 headset Finally.

Shh, relax… And strap two screens to your face.

Relaaaaax.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-drones-that-can-charge-on-power-lines-111517677.html?src=rss

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