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HBO Max and Discovery+ to combine into one streaming platform in 2023

Thu, 2022-08-04 21:04

HBO Max as we know it will soon be no more. At its first earnings call since the two media properties merged earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery announced it is planning on combining HBOMax and Discovery+ into a single streaming service — set to debut in the summer of 2023. It's unclear whether the new streamer will reference HBO at all — the company’s head of global streaming JB Perrette said the company is still doing research on how consumers perceive the brand name.

The news arrives on the heels of the newly-merged company’s $3.42 billion net loss during the second quarter. “At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business,” Perrette told analysts.

Warner Bros. leadership is planning a significant shakeup of its streaming offerings and also needs to cut $3 billion in costs, which spawned rumors that a gutting of HBO Max is underway. Executives didn’t reveal the name of the new platform or any pricing details, but did disclose that it will include an ad-free and less costly ad-supported plan. It may also add a free, ad-supported tier to further expand its audience. 

No mention was made of layoffs at HBO Max at today’s earnings call — which The Wrap reported were imminent as the two streaming platforms are restructured. Engadget has reached out to HBO Max for comment, and will update if we hear back.

It’s unclear exactly how the merger will impact future content offerings at the newly unified streamer. The company abruptly announced this week that it was canceling two movies in development for HBO Max — Batgirl and Scoob!. Around the same time, the streamer announced it was canceling the show The Gordita Chronicles and putting an end to live-action kids and family programming altogether. A number of shows and movies have disappeared from HBO Max in recent weeks, including Moonshot, The Witches and An American Pickle, and more are reportedly to follow.

One thing is certain: We’ll see far fewer blockbuster films premiere on the new streamer, as was customary during the pandemic. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said releasing films in movie theaters simply generated higher profits. “That’s why most people got in this business — to be on the big screen when the lights went out,” Mr. Zaslav said. “That is the magic, and the economic model is much stronger.”

Over 700 UK Amazon workers walk out over pay issues

Thu, 2022-08-04 19:02

More than 700 warehouse workers at an Amazon warehouse in England walked out this week in a dispute over a pay increase, reportedReuters. Amazon did not agree to the hourly rate increase of £2 (or $2.44) requested by the trade union representing the employees, instead offering a raise of 34 pence. GMB, the trade union representing the employees at the Tillbury facility (a suburb of Essex in Eastern England), said workers walked out on both Wednesday and Thursday.

“Amazon is one of the most profitable companies on the planet," Steve Garelick, a regional organizer for GMB, toldABC. “With household costs spiraling, the least they can do is offer decent pay.”

Garelick posted video footage of the protesting Tillbury workers, who began their walkout shortly after Amazon delivered the news that it would not meet the union’s demands. Management reportedly "withdrew catering" at the facility, and told workers that they would be terminated if they left the premises.

16.00 at Amazon Tilbury Essex today pic.twitter.com/bKWnv7BUow

— Steve Garelick (@steve_garelick) August 4, 2022

GMB began campaigning for higher pay and better health standards for Amazon warehouse workers in the UK in 2013, even calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the company’s labor practices. Amazon doesn’t recognize the GMB union at Tillbury or any of its other warehouses across the UK.

Dozens of Amazon workers at another UK warehouse — in Rugeley — also walked out yesterday due to a payment dispute. “Amazon Rugeley announced a 50p wage increase citing the local/Rugeley pay rate average. The news didn’t sit well with the associates and more than 100 people walked out in the canteen as a protest, which affected a lot of customer shipments,” an anonymous worker toldThe Birmingham Mail.

Keanu Reeves to star in Hulu's adaptation of 'Devil in the White City'

Thu, 2022-08-04 16:53

Hulu has ordered a limited series adaptation of Devil in the White City, which will star Keanu Reeves and be executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. The streamer announced the news today at the Television Critics Association’s summer tour. Based on the book of the same name by Erik Larson about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the series will be the first time the work is adapted for the screen after more than a decade’s worth of deals and bidding by numerous studios. Todd Field (In the Bedroom,Little Children) is set to direct the series. Deadlinereported that the eight-episode series is aiming for a 2024 release.

As The Hollywood Reporternotes, DiCaprio first optioned the rights to the book in 2010, and was set to star in a feature film adaptation that would be directed by Scorcese. Now, both men will executive produce the limited series, which will be a co-production of Paramount Television Studios and Disney’s ABC Signature.

Disney signed a deal with Comcast where it will buy its 33 percent stake in Hulu in 2024 — granting it full operational control of the streamer. But as CNBC notes, the deal was signed before the launch of Disney+, and there’s current confusion over what role another streaming service will play in the vast Disney empire. Hulu also houses a number of critically-acclaimed series, including Dopesick, The Dropout and The Handmaid’s Tale. With Devil in the White City, it seems Disney is attempting to position Hulu within the crowded streaming landscape as an adult-oriented platform for prestige TV.

San Diego joins other cities in restricting cops' use of surveillance technology

Thu, 2022-08-04 16:18

San Diego is joining the ranks of cities clamping down on surveillance technology. The San Diego Union-Tribunereports the City Council has given a final greenlight to an ordinance requiring approval for tech that can identify and track individuals, such as body and streetlight cameras. Municipal government workers will have to outline the intended uses of a surveillance system, while a new privacy advisory board and residents will be asked for input. Councillors will also conduct yearly reviews of in-use systems.

The city has a year-long grace period to both form the advisory board and give departments a chance to examine their surveillance tech inventories. Organizations that already use these systems will need authorization to continue use. An exception will allow police on federal task forces to use surveillance, however. San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit requested the carve-out over concerns that local officers couldn't participate in federal operations that bar disclosure of surveillance tech.

The council first approved the ordinance in November 2020. The late approval comes after multiple employee groups exercised their right to review the new rules. That process alone took about 18 months, The Union-Tribune said.

San Diego is relatively late to such regulations. San Francisco and other cities have banned facial recognition, for instance. Even so, its approval might increase pressure on other local governments to either restrict surveillance hardware or offer more transparency regarding their monitoring tools.

Microsoft is testing a family plan for Xbox Game Pass

Thu, 2022-08-04 15:48

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, which 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. If you're already a Game Pass member, the time remaining on your subscription will be converted based on its monetary value. A month of Game Pass Ultimate is worth 18 days of the family plan. Parsing things out, that suggests the family plan would cost around $25 per month if Microsoft brings it to the US, or $5 per person.

You'll need to wait for your membership to expire before moving to a different plan. People you want to invite onto a family plan will also need to cancel an existing Game Pass subscription or wait for it to run out. Alternatively, they can just create a new Microsoft account. It's worth noting that folks with an Xbox All Access plan aren't eligible.

A family plan seems to make a lot of sense for Microsoft, which has positioned Game Pass at the heart of the Xbox business. This should help the company boost the service's overall number of users, though it may come at the cost of losing some subscriptions in households with multiple Game Pass memberships or among groups of friends who split the price of a single plan.

Elsewhere, Nintendo has long offered a Switch Online family plan for both the standard and Expansion Pack tiers. Although Sony recently revamped PlayStation Plus, it does not yet offer any multi-person plans.

Google made one of its best search shortcuts even more useful

Thu, 2022-08-04 14:50

Google searches with quotes just became much more useful if you're looking for the exact place words appear on a page. The internet giant has updated quote-based searches with page snippets that show exactly where you'll find the text you're looking for. You might not have to scroll through a giant document just to find the right phrase.

There are limitations. Searches with quotes might turn up results that aren't visible (such as meta description tags) or only show up in web addresses and title links. You might not see all of the mentions in a snippet if they're too far apart. You'll "generally" only see bolded mentions on desktop, and you won't see the bolding at all for specialized searches and results (such as image searches and video boxes). You may have to use your browser's on-page search feature to jump to the relevant keywords.

The company characterized the change as a response to feedback. It hesitated to make snippets for these searches in the past, as documents didn't always produce readable descriptions. This is an acknowledgment that people using quotes to search are sometimes "power users" more interested in pinpointing words than reading site descriptions.

Something is making the Earth spin faster and days shorter

Thu, 2022-08-04 14:33

Over the last couple of years, time has felt more nebulous than ever. You'd be forgiven for thinking that days are passing by at an increasingly faster clip. According to scientists, that perspective is not wrong. On June 29th, midnight arrived 1.59 milliseconds sooner than expected. It was the shortest day in over half a century, at least since scientists started tracking the pace of the Earth's rotation with atomic clocks in the 1960s. 

That wasn't a one-off occurrence either. In 2020, the planet saw what were, at the time, the 28 shortest days in recorded history. And just last week, on July 26th, the day lasted 1.5 milliseconds less than usual. "Since 2016 the Earth started to accelerate," Leonid Zotov, a researcher at Lomonosov Moscow State University, told CBS News. "This year it rotates quicker than in 2021 and 2020."

Days have become much longer since the Earth's formation. As The Guardian notes, around 1.4 billion years ago, a rotation of the Earth took less than 19 hours. Days have gotten longer by, on average, around one 74,000th of a second each year. But the planet's rotation can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.

Scientists believe there are a number of factors that may impact the Earth's rotation, including earthquakes, stronger winds in El Niño years, icecaps melting and refreezing, the moon and the climate. Some have suggested the so-called "Chandler wobble" may have an effect on the rotation too. That phenomenon is a "small, irregular deviation in the Earth's points of rotation relative to the solid Earth," as USA Today puts it.

To account for fluctuations in the lengths of days, since 1972, there have been occasional leap seconds — a single-second addition to Coordinated Universal Time. Should the current trend of shorter days continue, there's a possibility that a negative leap second may be needed to keep clocks aligned with the planet's rotation. As such, UTC would skip a second.

Leap seconds already cause havoc on ultra-precise systems. Just last week, Meta called for an end to leap seconds, which have caused outages at Reddit and Cloudflare over the last decade. A negative leap second could lead to even more chaos.

"With the Earth’s rotation pattern changing, it’s very likely that we will get a negative leap second at some point in the future," Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi wrote in a blog post. "The impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers."

Volkswagen's US-made 2023 ID.4 EV will start at $37,495

Thu, 2022-08-04 12:52

VW might just buck the trend of ever-rising EV prices. The automaker has revealed that the 2023 ID.4 electric SUV will start at $37,495 before the destination fee ($1,295) and tax credits, or well under the $41,230 price of its predecessor. The trick, as you might guess, is a smaller battery. The base model (now called the ID.4 Standard) uses a new 62kWh battery that musters an estimated 208 miles of range. While that won't thrill anyone planning cross-country jaunts, it could make the EV a better value if you're just looking for a commuter car.

There are numerous technology upgrades, too. The ID.4 now comes standard with a previously optional 12-inch infotainment display, 45W USB-C, simpler Plug & Charge functionality and Intelligent Park Assist. All 2023 models now have driver-initiated lane changes in Travel Assist. You can also expect a posher interior with part-leatherette seats on the Standard model.

You'll still have strong incentives to buy higher-end configurations. The $42,495 ID.4 Pro upgrades to an 82kWh battery with an estimated 275-mile range and 170kW DC fast charging while throwing in perks like a heated windshield, a tow hitch and a variable compartment flow. An all-wheel drive variant of the Pro starts at $46,295. All of these models are available in an S trim that adds a panoramic roof, 12-way power seats, a power tailgate and more advanced lighting. The ID.4 S, Pro S and Pro AWD S respectively start at $42,495, $47,495 and $51,295.

At the high end, the $50,195 ID.4 Pro S Plus and $53,995 AWD Pro S Plus both offer 20-inch wheels, a speaker upgrade with subwoofer, an "Area View" camera system, three-zone climate control and power folding door mirrors. They replace last year's Gradient package.

The more affordable model arrives in the fall. It comes just as VW has started US production of the EV, and reflects the company's shifting strategy. It's betting that a lower price and equipment upgrades will help it undercut rivals in the $40,000 range, like Ford's Mustang Mach-E and Hyundai's Ioniq 5. While it won't be surprising if competitors offer similar options in the future, there's now a clearer reason to buy an ID.4 than before.

'Among Us VR' beta signups are now open

Thu, 2022-08-04 12:39

Among Us is about to enter the realm of virtual reality. If you're lucky, you might even be able to try Among Us VR before it's officially released later this year. Signups are now open for the spin-off's beta.

As you might expect, Among Us VR shifts the action from a top-down perspective to a first-person view. That ups the ante a bit, since you may not be able to tell if a potential impostor is just behind you. There's also proximity voice chat and the option to accuse other players of being an imposter with literal finger pointing.

Schell Games, which is behind puzzle game series I Expect You To Die, worked with original Among Us developer Innersloth on the virtual reality version. Among Us VR will be available on Meta Quest 2, Steam VR, PlayStation VR and, when it's available, PSVR 2.

do you own a VR headset?
do you have an internet connection?
do you want to try Among Us VR early?

sign up for Beta Test tasks here and help out the beans!https://t.co/oq5zynIVTApic.twitter.com/EFbitLFKVO

— Among Us VR (@AmongUsVR) August 3, 2022

Instagram is expanding NFT features to more than 100 countries

Thu, 2022-08-04 11:40

The non-fungible token (NFT) market has fallen off a cliff, but that's not stopping Instagram from 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 Meta has strongly hinted it's working on a marketplace.

As of today, Instagram now supports third-party wallets from Coinbase and Dapper, in addition to Rainbow, MetaMask and Trust Wallet. On top of the Ethereum and Polygon blockchains, it will also support Flow.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the expansion in (where else?) an Instagram post. He included photos of a Little League baseball card he had made of himself as a kid. A young Zuckerberg gifted it to his favorite camp counselor, Allie Tarantino, who now plans to sell both the signed card and an associated NFT. "On the back of his card, he put a .920 batting average — which is like impossible in baseball," Tarantino told the Associated Press. "So even as a little kid, he was aiming big.”

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Paramount+ hits 43 million subscribers as streaming rivals struggle

Thu, 2022-08-04 11:28

You might think a network-specific streaming services like Paramount+ doesn't stand a chance in a grim market when even Netflix is floundering, but it's apparently thriving. The company 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 — if it weren't for that, the service would have added 4.9 million viewers.

ViacomCBS partly credited the surge to expansions to more countries, including the UK, Ireland and South Korea. However, it also pointed to success with content that included its Halo series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, movies like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and live Champions League matches. Paramount+ is still leaning on its sci-fi audience, then, but not as much as it has in the past.

The overall Paramount+ subscriber count is still tiny compared to Netflix (220.7 million) and Amazon Prime Video (over 200 million). Its growth is a sharp contrast to Netflix's nearly 1 million lost subscribers, though. The firm is also keen to note that it had the most sign-ups and net additions of any US-based premium subscription streaming service in the quarter, according to Antenna data. In other words, Paramount+ was outperforming all its main rivals, including Apple TV+, Hulu and Peacock.

Whether or not that trend continues is uncertain. Paramount+ is still expanding to more countries, and should be available in 60 markets by the end of the year. It can count on those newcomers to boost its numbers for a while. Eventually, though, the streamer will be more reliant on the quality of its catalog to grow its audience. And while there have clearly been some hits, heavyweights like Amazon and Netflix still have plenty of money and momentum in their favor.

UK trials roadside van that detects if drivers are holding their phone

Thu, 2022-08-04 11:10

UK police are testing a roadside van that can detect whether a driver is holding a phone while they're at the wheel. The three-month trial is being conducted in Warwickshire with the help of government-owned National Highways, which oversees motorways and major A roads in England. The test will help determine how the tech may be used in the future, according to The Guardian.

The van, which can also check whether drivers or passengers are wearing seatbelts, is kitted out with several cameras that capture footage of passing vehicles. An AI system analyzes the images for possible phone and seatbelt violations. Police say the "most serious breaches" spotted during the trial may be prosecuted, while other drivers will receive warning letters.

Distracted driving is a serious issue. In Britain in 2019, there were 420 collisions in which it was determined that a driver was using a phone. Meanwhile, data shows that 23 percent of car occupants who died in crashes in the country in 2020 were not wearing their seatbelt.

The trial is part of National Highways' plan to prevent any deaths or serious injuries on its network by 2040. Future tests may see the van being equipped with tech that can detect vehicles driving too close to each other.

What to expect from Samsung's August 10th Unpacked event

Thu, 2022-08-04 10:40

Samsung is holding its next Unpacked livestream on August 10th, and expectations are running high. The company has used previous summer events to introduce new foldable phones, smartwatches and earbuds, and the company has effectively confirmed a repeat in 2022. Just what will appear this time around, though? Don’t worry — we’ll let you know what you’re likely to see when Samsung takes to the virtual stage.

How to watch UnpackedSamsung Galaxy Unpacked August 2022 teaserSamsung

It will be easy to follow Samsung’s announcements. The company is streaming Unpacked live on August 10th at 9AM Eastern. You can watch on Samsung’s website, and you’ll usually find a broadcast on the brand’s YouTube channel. Naturally, you can expect event coverage from Engadget.

Galaxy Z Fold 4Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 leakEvan Blass/91Mobiles

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is nearly a year old, so it’s arguably due for an update — and Samsung’s own Unpacked teasers hint that one is coming. With that said, we wouldn’t expect a Z Fold 4 to represent a major overhaul. If leaks are correct, the new model will represent a refinement of the marquee foldable.

Rendered images shared by OnLeaks and Smartprix, as well as Evan Blass and 91Mobiles, suggest the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will mate the series’ phone-slash-tablet formula with design elements from the S22 Ultra. You’d get Ultra-like rear camera bumps and slightly tweaked dimensions, but it would otherwise be very familiar. Not that we’d rule out functional changes. Leaker Ice Universe claims the Z Fold 4 would have less prominent display creases, for example.

Performance upgrades could be more substantial, if predictable. Noted leaker Yogesh Brar says the Z Fold 4 would use the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip paired with 12GB or 16GB of RAM. You’d see an upgraded 50-megapixel main rear camera as well as a much sharper 16-megapixel under-display inside cam. You could expect familiar 12MP ultra-wide and 3X zoom sensors on the back, and a 10MP outer selfie shooter. There is a dispute over the storage, though. While Brar maintains that the Z Fold 4 would start with 256GB of space, Evan Blass has discovered references to a 128GB edition.

That storage question may affect the price. While YouTuber Jon Prosser and others believe the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will reach stores August 26th, it’s not clear how much the device will cost. A 128GB variant could lead to a lower starting price than the $1,800 of its predecessor. Just don’t expect higher capacities than last year when there hasn’t been a mention of storage options beyond 512GB.

Galaxy Z Flip 4Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 leakEvan Blass/91Mobiles

There’s even less mystery to the next Galaxy Z Flip. Samsung’s teaser video for the Unpacked event very clearly shows a new version of the clamshell phone, so it’s really just a question of what the Z Flip 4 will offer versus its predecessor.

Don’t expect a major redesign. If the OnLeaks and Evan Blass images (plus a removed TechTalkTV video) are accurate, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is virtually a carbon copy of the Flip 3 with similar rear cameras, a slightly larger external display and different colors. That isn’t necessarily a problem, but it might prove disappointing if you were looking for a brand new look. The less pronounced screen creasing of the Fold 4 might carry over, too.

The under-the-hood upgrades would be subtler than those of the Fold 4, according to rumors. Yogesh Brar claims the Z Flip 4 would make the leap to a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, but would still include 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of non-expandable storage and a 6.7-inch 120Hz display. You’d get a larger 3,700mAh battery (versus 3,300mAh in the Flip 3) and 25W charging (versus 15W), though, so the Flip 4 might last longer. The previous phone’s dual 12MP rear cameras and 10MP selfie camera would carry over to the new model.

Samsung typically releases new Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold models at the same time, and Prosser has heard that the Flip 4 will reach stores on August 26th like its higher-end counterpart. If so, the cost might be the only mystery left. There’s no certainty the Flip 4 will stick to its ancestor’s $999 price. If there is a 128GB model, though, we wouldn’t expect the latest device to be much more expensive, if at all.

Galaxy Watch 5 and 5 ProSamsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro leakEvan Blass/91Mobiles

The Galaxy Watch 4 marked a revival of Samsung’s smartwatch strategy with its switch to Wear OS and a sleeker design. The company might be eager to preserve that momentum, as there are signs it’s readying a Galaxy Watch 5 family with a few notable twists.

If 91Mobilesshared renders are authentic, Samsung will drop its higher-end Classic model in favor of a more modern-looking (if still posh) Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. You might not get the knurled bezel of the previous smartwatch, 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.

The regular Galaxy Watch 5 wouldn't be as big a departure. You could expect the same minimal, fitness-oriented design as before. SamMobilefloated a rumor that the wristwear would have a 10 percent larger battery than its year-old counterpart, but it’s unknown if that will translate to a longer-lasting timepiece. It’s still unclear if Samsung will implement a new processor or body sensor that could affect battery life.

You may have to pay more than you might expect. WinFuture’s Roland Quandt heard in June that the regular Galaxy Watch 5 would start around €300 (about $306) for a 40mm Bluetooth mode and top out at €400 ($409) for a 44mm LTE unit. Titanium is a historically expensive watch case material, and that would bump the price of the 5 Pro to about €490 ($502) for a 45mm Bluetooth model and €540 ($552) for its LTE equivalent.

New Galaxy Buds ProSamsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro leakEvan Blass/91Mobiles

The basic Galaxy Buds 2 premiered at last year’s Unpacked, and Samsung might follow that up with a higher-end option. Evan Blass and 91Mobiles recently posted renderings of what they say are the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.

Cosmetically, the true wireless earbuds would look nearly the same as the existing Galaxy Buds Pro introduced in January 2021. 9to5Googlesources claim you’d get questionably useful 24-bit audio support, and there have been murmurs of a larger battery. Otherwise, Samsung might play it safe with familiar active noise cancellation and multi-device pairing support.

Be ready to pay more. A 9to5 retail tipster maintains that the Buds 2 Pro will cost $230, or a significant $30 more. While that still makes them more affordable than rivals like the AirPods Pro (officially $249), you might not save much by springing for Samsung’s in-ears.

WildcardsSamsung Galaxy Buds 2Billy Steele/Engadget

We wouldn’t rule out a surprise or two at the August Unpacked event, but don’t count on any either. There aren’t any signs of a replacement for the Galaxy Buds 2 or other earbuds. Similarly, Samsung updated the Galaxy A and S series earlier this year. The company’s next hardware updates are very predictable at this stage, and any unusual announcements will likely be reserved for follow-up presentations.

Blizzard may have canceled a 'World of Warcraft' mobile spinoff

Thu, 2022-08-04 09:35

Arclight Rumble wasn't going to be the only upcoming Warcraft mobile game, according to a report. Bloombergsources claim Blizzard and NetEase have canceled a World of Warcraft spinoff mobile title that had been in development for three years. Nicknamed Neptune, it would have been a massively multiplayer game set in a different era of the fantasy universe. It wouldn't simply have been a WoW phone port, to put it another way.

While the exact reasons for the cancelation weren't mentioned, one of the insiders said Blizzard and NetEase "disagreed over terms" and ultimately decided to scrap the unannounced game. NetEase supposedly had over 100 developers attached to the project. The two were rumored to have previously canceled another Warcraft mobile release, a Pokémon Go-style augmented reality game, after four years of effort.

Spokespeople from both companies declined to comment. If the rumor is accurate, it suggests Blizzard is struggling to adapt to the rise of mobile gaming. While Diablo Immortal appears to be a success and is joining the well-established Hearthstone, the developers will still have sunk massive resources into other games that never reached players.

There are strong incentives to take these risks, however. Mobile games can be highly lucrative, particularly in countries like China — Genshin Impact has pulled in $3 billion since release, according to Sensor Tower estimates. A hit could easily boost Blizzard's bottom line, not to mention spur demand for its existing computer- and console-bound games.

The best Nintendo Switch games for 2022

Thu, 2022-08-04 09:15

Just five years ago, Nintendo was at a crossroads. The Wii U was languishing well in third place in the console wars and, after considerable pressure, the company was making its first tentative steps into mobile gaming with Miitomo and Super Mario Run. Fast-forward to today: The Switch is likely on the way to becoming the company’s best-selling “home console” ever, and seven Switch games have outsold the Wii U console. Everything’s coming up Nintendo, then, 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 aims to help the uninitiated start their journey on the right foot. These are the games you should own — for now. We regularly revise and add to the list as appropriate. Oh, and if you've got a Switch Lite, don't worry: Every game on the list is fully supported by the portable-only console.

Animal Crossing: New HorizonsAnimal CrossingNintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the best game in the series yet. It streamlines many of the clunky aspects from earlier games and gives players plenty of motivation to keep shaping their island community. As you'd expect, it also looks better than any previous entry, giving you even more motivation to fill up your virtual home and closet. The sound design reaches ASMR levels of brain-tingling comfort. And yes, it certainly helps that New Horizons is an incredibly soothing escape from reality when we're all stuck at home in the midst of a global pandemic.

Buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons at Amazon - $60Astral ChainAstral ChainNintendo

I was on the fence about Astral Chain from the day the first trailer came out until a good few hours into my playthrough. It all felt a little too generic, almost a paint-by-numbers rendition of an action game. I needn't have been so worried, as it's one of the more original titles to come from PlatinumGames, the developer behind the Bayonetta series, in recent years.

In a future where the world is under constant attack from creatures that exist on another plane of existence, you play as an officer in a special force that deals with this threat. The game's gimmick is that you can tame these creatures to become Legions that you use in combat. Encounters play out with you controlling both your character and the Legion simultaneously to deal with waves of mobs and larger, more challenging enemies. As well as for combat, you'll use your Legion(s) to solve crimes and traverse environments.

Astral Chain sticks closely to a loop of detective work, platforming puzzles and combat — a little too closely, if I'm being critical — with the game split into cases that serve as chapters. The story starts off well enough but quickly devolves into a mashup of various anime tropes, including twists and arcs ripped straight from some very famous shows and films. However, the minute-to-minute gameplay is enough to keep you engaged through the 20-hour or so main campaign and into the fairly significant end-game content.

Does Astral Chain reach the heights of Nier: Automata? No, not at all, but its combat and environments can often surpass that game, which all-told is probably my favorite of this generation. Often available for under $50 these days, it's well worth your time.

Buy Astral Chain at Amazon - $60CelesteCelesteMattMakesGames Inc.

Celeste is a lot of things. It's a great platformer, but it's also a puzzle game. It's extremely punishing, but it's also very accessible. It puts gameplay above everything, but it has a great story. It's a beautiful, moving and memorable contradiction of a game, created by MattMakesGames, the indie studio behind the excellent Towerfall. So, Celeste is worth picking up no matter what platform you own, but its room-based levels and clear 2D artwork make it a fantastic game to play on the Switch when on the go.

Buy Celeste at Amazon - $20Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive AgeDragon Quest XI SSquare Enix

Dragon Quest XI is an unashamedly traditional Japanese role-playing game. Most of the characters are established RPG tropes: mute protagonist-who’s-actually-a-legendary-hero, sister mages, mysterious rogue and the rest. Then there’s the battle system, which has rarely changed in the decades of the series. (There’s a reason that this special edition features a 16-bit styled version of the game: The mechanics and story work just as well in more... graphically constrained surroundings.) While the story hits a lot of familiar RPG beats, everything takes an interesting turn later on. And through it, the game demands completion. RPGs require compelling stories, and this has one. It just doesn’t quite kick in until later.

This eleventh iteration of the series also serves as a celebration of all things Dragon Quest. Without getting too deep into the story, the game heavily references the first game, taking place in the same narrative universe, just hundreds of years later.

The Switch edition doesn’t offer the most polished take on the game — it’s available on rival consoles — but the characters, designed by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, move around fluidly, in plenty of detail despite the limits of the hybrid console. And while it’s hard to explain, There’s also something just plain right about playing a traditional JRPG on a Nintendo console.

Buy Dragon Quest XI S at Amazon - $55Fire Emblem: Three Houses Three HousesNintendo

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one hell of a game. Developer Intelligent Systems made a lot of tweaks to its formula for the series' first outing on the Nintendo Switch, and the result of those changes is a game that marries Fire Emblem's dual personalities in a meaningful and satisfying way. You'll spend half your time as a master tactician, commanding troops around varied and enjoyable battlefields. The other half? You'll be teaching students and building relationships as a professor at the finest school in the land.

Buy Fire Emblem: Three Houses at Amazon - $60HadesHadesSupergiant Games

Hades was the first early access title to ever make our best PC game list, and the final game is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s Switch. It's an action-RPG developed by the team behind Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. You play Zagreus, son of Hades, who's having a little spat with his dad, and wants to escape from the underworld. To do so, Zagreus has to fight his way through the various levels of the underworld and up to the surface. Along the way, you’ll pick up “boons” from a wide range of ancient deities like Zeus, Ares and Aphrodite, which stack additional effects on your various attacks. Each level is divided into rooms full of demons, items and the occasional miniboss.

As Hades is a “roguelike” game, you start at the same place every time, with the levels rearranged. With that said, the items you collect can be used to access and upgrade new weapons and abilities that stick between sessions. Hades initially caught our attention just for its gameplay: You can jump in for 30 minutes and have a blast, or find yourself playing for hours. As the game neared its final release, the storytelling, world-building and its general character really started to take shape — there’s so much to do, so many people to meet and even some romance stuffed in there. You could play for hundreds of hours and still have fun.

Buy Hades at Amazon - $30Hollow KnightHollow KnightTeam Cherry

This was a real sleeper hit, and one of very few Kickstarter games to not only live up to but exceed expectations. Hollow Knight is a 2D action-adventure game in the Metroidvania style, but it's also just a mood. Set in a vast, decrepit land, which you'll explore gradually as you unlock new movement and attack skills for your character, a Burtonesque bug-like creature. Short on both dialogue and narrative, the developers instead convey a story through environment and atmosphere, and it absolutely nails it.

You'll start out feeling fairly powerless, but Hollow Knight has a perfect difficulty curve, always allowing you to progress but never making it easy. For example, it borrows the Dark Souls mechanic where you'll need to travel back to your corpse upon death to retrieve your "Geo" (the game's stand-in for Souls), which is always a tense time. Throughout it all, though, the enemies and NPCs will never fail to delight. For a moody game, it has a nice sense of humor and levity imbued mostly through the beautifully animated and voiced folks you meet. Given its low cost and extremely high quality, there's really no reason not to get this game. Trust us, it'll win you over.

Buy Hollow Knight at Amazon - $15Into The BreachInto The BreachSubset Games

When is a turn-based strategy game not a turn-based strategy game? Into the Breach, an indie roguelike game where you control mechs to stem an alien attack, defies conventions, and is all the better for it. While its core mechanics are very much in the XCOM (or Fire Emblem, for that matter) mold, it's what it does with those mechanics that's so interesting. A traditional turn-based strategy game plays out like a game of chess — you plan a move, while predicting what your opponent will do in return, and thinking ahead to what you'll do next, and so on, with the eventual goal of forcing them into a corner and winning. At the start of every Into the Breach turn, the game politely tells you exactly what each enemy character is going to do, down the exact square they'll end on and how much damage they'll inflict. There are no hit percentages, no random events, no luck; each turn is a puzzle, with definitive answers to how exactly you're going to come out on top.

Into the Breach battles are short, and being a roguelike, designed to be very replayable. Once you've mastered the basics and reached the end, there are numerous different mechs with new attack and defense mechanics to learn and master as you mix-and-match to build your favorite team. If you're a fan of either puzzle or turn-based strategy games, this is a must-have.

Buy Into The Breach at Amazon - $15The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildBreath of the Wild screenshotNintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild signals the biggest shift in the series since the Nintendo 64's Ocarina of Time, and it might well be one of the best games of the past decade. It pulls the long-running series into modern gaming, with a perfectly pitched difficulty curve and an incredible open world to play with. There's crafting, weapons that degrade, almost too much to collect and do and a gentle story hidden away for players to discover for themselves. Even without the entertaining DLC add-ons, there's simply so much to do here and challenges for every level of gamer.

Buy Breath of the Wild at Amazon - $40Disco Elysium Final CutGOG offers steep discounts on Disco Elysium, Cyberpunk 2077 and more ZA/UM

Disco Elysium is a special game. The first release from Estonian studio ZA/UM, it's a sprawling science-fiction RPG that takes more inspiration from D&D and Baldur's Gate than modern combat-focused games. In fact, there is no combat to speak of, instead, you'll be creating your character, choosing what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then passing D&D-style skill checks to make your way through the story. You'll, of course, be leveling up your abilities and boosting stats with items, but really the game's systems fall away in place of a truly engaging story, featuring some of the finest writing to ever grace a video game.

With the Final Cut, released 18 months after the original, this extremely dialogue-heavy game now has full voice acting, which brings the unique world more to life than ever before. After debuting on PC, PS5 and Stadia, Final Cut is now available for all extant home consoles – including Nintendo’s Switch. Loading times are a little slower than on other systems, so it might not be the absolute best platform to play it on, but Disco Elysium is an experience unlike the rest of the Switch library, which is why it makes it on this list.

Buy Disco Elysium Final Cut at Amazon - $40Mario Kart 8 DeluxeMario Kart 8 screenshotNintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's vibrancy and attention to detail prove it's a valid upgrade to the Wii U original. Characters are animated and endearing as they race around, and Nintendo's made bigger, wider tracks to accommodate up to 12 racers. This edition of Mario Kart included gravity-defying hover tires and automatic gliders for when you soar off ramps, making races even more visually thrilling, but at its core, it's Mario Kart — simple, pure gaming fun. It's also a great showcase for the multitude of playing modes that the Switch is capable of: Two-player split-screen anywhere is possible, as are online races or Switch-on-Switch chaos. For now, this is the definitive edition.

Buy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at Amazon - $50OlliOlli WorldOlliOlli World screenshotRoll7

OlliOlli and its sequel, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood, were notoriously difficult to master. They were infuriating, but also extremely satisfying when you pulled off just the right combo of tricks and grinds needed for a big score.

I was worried that OlliOlli World’s colorful and welcoming new direction for the series was going to dispense with that level of challenge, but I shouldn’t have been concerned. Developer Roll7 made a game that’s significantly more approachable than the original titles — but one that keeps the twitch-response gameplay and score-chasing highs intact for those who crave them.

It’s hard to sum up exactly what makes OlliOlli World so compelling, but the game mixes serious challenges with moments that let you really get into that elusive flow state, where you’re just pulling off tricks, riding rails and generally tearing through a course without thinking too much about what you’re doing. The music, sound effects, art style, level design and variety of moves you can pull off all contribute to this vibe — and even though the game looks entirely different from its predecessors, the end result is the same: skateboarding bliss.

Buy OlliOlli World at Amazon - $30Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s FurySuper Mario 3D World screenshotNintendo

Super Mario 3D World was unfairly slept on when it originally launched in 2013, mostly due to the fact very few people had a Wii U. It's a superb translation of old-school Mario mechanics into 3D (Mario 64 is a masterpiece, yes, but unless you're a speed-runner it doesn't quite have the pace of the NES and SNES games). It's also a great multiplayer game, as you can play simultaneously with three other players and race through levels — the winner of each level gets to wear a crown in the next.

With the move to the Switch, and Nintendo finally starting to figure out online gaming, you can now do that remotely, which is a huge plus. The bigger addition is Bowser's Fury, an all-new game of sorts that plays more like a blend of Super Mario Odyssey and 3D World. There are some really creative challenges that feel right out of Odyssey, blended with the lightness and speed of the Wii U game. (It should be noted that Bowser's Fury is also only good for one or two players, unlike the main game.) We'd recommend 3D World just on its own, but as a package with Bowser's Fury, it becomes a much better deal.

Buy Super Mario 3D World at Amazon - $60Super Mario OdysseySuper Mario Odyssey screenshotNintendo

Super Mario Odyssey might not represent the major change that Breath of the Wild was for the Zelda series, but it’s a great Mario game that's been refined across the last two decades. Yes, we got some important modern improvements, like maps and fast travel, and the power-stealing Cappy is a truly fun addition to Mario's usual tricks. But that core joy of Mario, figuring out the puzzles, racing to collect items and exploring landmarks, is here in abundance.

Buy Super Mario Odyssey at Amazon - $60Super Smash Bros. UltimateSuper Smash Bros. UltimateNintendo

This is the ultimate distillation of Nintendo's multiplayer fighting game. The series' debut on Switch brings even more characters from beyond Nintendo's stable. If you're sick of Mario, Pikachu and Metroid's Samus, perhaps Final Fantasy VII's Cloud, Solid Snake or Bayonetta will be your new go-to character. There are about 80 characters to test out here (although 10 of them are locked behind DLC).

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features a divisive new single-player mode where you augment characters with stickers, battling through special conditions to unlock more characters and, yes, more stickers. At its core, Smash Bros. games combine fast-paced, chaotic fights with an incredibly beginner-friendly learning curve. Yes, some items are confusing or overpowered, but your special moves are only a two-button combination away. Turning the tables is built into the DNA of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, ensuring thrilling battles (once you've sorted handicaps) for everyone involved.

Buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Amazon - $60

Canon EOS R7 review: A strong start for RF-mount crop sensor cameras

Thu, 2022-08-04 09:00

Canon launched the EOS R7 and R10 APS-C RF-S mount cameras earlier this year, finally introducing lens compatibility between crop-sensor and full-frame mirrorless cameras. That puts the future of its current APS-C EOS-M line in doubt, however.

Today’s review is all about the higher-end $1,500, 32-megapixel EOS R7. At that price, it goes up against rival APS-C models like Fujifilm’s X-T4 and the Sony A6600, but also Panasonic’s $1,700 Micro Four Thirds GH5-II and even full-frame cameras like Nikon’s $1,300 Z5.

Much like it did with the pioneering EOS-R, Canon made some interesting design decisions with the R7 body, and used a non-stacked, non-backside illuminated sensor. The R7 has a strong feature set, though, offering fast burst speeds, powerful AI autofocus and strong video capabilities. I checked it out with some help from my pro photographer friend, and here’s what we found.

Body and Handling

The EOS R7 has a classic Canon look, and while it’s not quite as pretty as the X-T4, I like the design more than Sony’s boxy APS-C cameras. It looks small in hand but is actually fairly hefty at 612 grams – not much less than the full-frame R6 and considerably more than the 503 gram A6600. The big mount supports both RF and the new RF-lenses designed for the R7 and R10.

It has a deep grip that’s comfortable and provides stability, even with big lenses. There’s a control dial on the front of the grip as usual, but Canon tried a new approach with the rear dial. Instead of putting it on the right where the on/off/video switch is now located, it’s well to the left of that and in a vertical position, wrapped around the joystick.

I wasn’t too sure about that when I first saw it. It didn’t take long to get used to it, though, and Sam noticed that it was easier to change settings or move the focus point one-handed while still keeping a solid grip.

The lack of a third dial for changing things like ISO is an issue, though. It’s certainly manageable through some dedicated buttons, and you can reprogram the control ring on any Canon RF lens, including the two new models, to change the aperture or other settings. Apart from that, the R7 handles nearly as well as the X-T4, and a lot better than any of Sony’s current APS-C cameras.

The 54mm RF mount also used on full-frame cameras looks cartoonishly big on the small body, but it means you can attach RF lenses like the $2,300 50mm f/1.2 That’s good, because Canon has only two RF-S lenses so far, the 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 and the 18-45mm f/4.5-6.3. Neither is fast nor particularly sharp, but they’re inexpensive and versatile for casual users.

If you do need a faster prime right now, Canon’s $180 RF 50mm f/1.8 or $500 RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro are possible options, but both have an equivalent 1.6 times focal length due to the crop factor. You can also use any EF lenses you have lying around with Canon’s RF to EF adapter.

Canon EOS R7 mirrorless APS-C camera reviewSteve Dent/Engadget

The R7 has a fully articulating, responsive 1.62-million dot display that gives you full control of the menu, playback, autofocus and other things via touch. The menus are typical Canon, which Sam actually prefers to Sony. I’m less fond of them, as I still have trouble finding settings.

The OLED viewfinder is a bit disappointing, though. You get just 2.36 million dots of resolution, compared to 3.68 million on the X-T4 and GH5-II. For things like bird shooting that require a sharp view to judge focus, this may be an issue.

Canon made a good choice using the same battery from the R5 and R6, rather than the smaller one found on the R10. It allows for a solid 660 shots on a charge, or well over 90 minutes of oversampled 4K 24p video recording.

It has both headphone and microphone jacks, along with a micro-HDMI port that’s unfortunate but par for the course with APS-C cameras. Finally, it has a nice dual UHS-II card setup for easy backups and relatively fast shooting.

PerformanceCanon EOS R7 sample image gallerySteve Dent/Engadget

The R7 is a speed-demon of a camera, shooting 15 fps bursts with continuous autofocus using the mechanical shutter and an incredible 30 fps using the electronic shutter. Those are the same maximum frame rates as the $6,000 EOS R3, which makes it great for sports or wildlife shooting, particularly as it has a built-in zoom with the 1.6 times crop factor.

There’s a large caveat on the electronic shutter mode part, though. Not being stacked, the sensor doesn’t read out particularly quickly, so it can produce skewed photos in electronic mode with fast subjects or excessive camera movement. The mechanical shutter is fast enough to be a good option, but it makes a loud clunking noise that could scare away that white-tailed deer or draw unwanted attention at a high-school basketball game.

You’ll get a decent number of frames before they kick you out, though. It delivers 100 shots at 15 fps with the mechanical shutter or about 70 with the electronic shutter before the buffer fills. If you have a fast UHS-II card, the buffer clears out fairly quickly and you can get back to shooting again.

Canon EOS R7 mirrorless APS-C camera reviewSteve Dent/Engadget

Like other Canon cameras, the R7 uses Canon’s Dual Pixel autofocus with deep learning AI tech. In regular single-point continuous AF mode, it nails shots even with fast moving subjects. And the subject tracking is top-notch, requiring very little fussing. If you select a subject in any AF area mode, it’ll lock on and track it tenaciously. If the subject is a human, animal, bird or even a car, it’ll track their head, body or eyes.

It worked reliably and rapidly for myself and pro photographer Samuel, keeping kids, cats, birds and other quick-moving subjects in focus. Though it can fail to lock into subjects like birds behind a branch, Canon has a “foreground” setting that can help. Canon also offers four AF cases, allowing standard photos, subjects that may appear quickly, subjects that speed up or slow down quickly, and the aforementioned foreground setting. Overall, the AF is right up there with Sony, and superior to Fujifilm and Nikon.

The R7 is one of the smaller bodies available with five-axis in-body stabilization, as well. That system reduces shakes up to 8 stops with select lenses, which allowed me to take sharp shots down to an eighth or even a quarter of a second.

Image quality

While the new 32.5-megapixel image sensor isn’t very fast, image quality is top-notch thanks to the updated DIGIC X image processor, high-megapixel count and Canon’s color science. Compared to the usual 24 megapixels, 32.5 provides a noticeable jump in sharpness and lets you crop into photos more if necessary.

JPEG quality is perhaps the best of any APS-C Canon camera yet, with sharper, more natural images than the M6 Mark II, which also has a 32.5-megapixel processor (though not the same one, Canon says). Samuel said he took several studio photos that he could have given to the client as JPEGs with no processing.

Canon offers both lossy and non-lossy compressed 14-bit RAW files, but it’s hard to see the difference unless you really punch in. Both deliver good dynamic range, with the ability to retain detail in high-contrast scenes. Dynamic range doesn’t quite hold up to Nikon’s Z fc, but it’s not far off.

The R7 has decent but not great low-light shooting capability with usable images up to ISO 6400 or even ISO 12800 if the exposure is good and you don’t try to boost the shadows much in post. Sony’s APS-C cameras are a bit better in that regard, but the resolution is also lower.

Canon EOS R7 sample image galleryVideo

For video, the R7 is superior to most APS-C cameras except perhaps Fujifilm’s aging X-T4 and the new $2,500 X-H2S, which offers up to 6.2K shooting. And it’s far better than any of Sony’s APS-C cameras, which lack 10-bit, high frame rates and other features.

You can shoot pin-sharp supersampled 4K using the entire sensor width at up to 30 fps. It also offers 4K at 60fps using either line-skipping or a 1.8 times crop (on top of the 1.6 times crop). Both modes are softer, but the quality is usable for most projects and the rolling shutter issues are less severe.

The R7 also features C-Log3 or PQ HDR video with 10-bit color for increased dynamic range. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an All-I mode for easy editing, so you’re limited to IPB “long gop” codecs with a regular mode and Lite mode that takes up about half the storage.

Canon EOS R7 sample image gallerySample video frameSteve Dent/Engadget

What about overheating? Canon does have some guidance on that, but I never ran into any warnings, even on several warm days. The oversample 4K at 30fps is the most demanding, but Canon says you can shoot at least an hour straight in that mode with no issues.

As with photos, video is sharp and color-accurate with Canon’s trademark warm skin tones. C-Log3 is easy to color grade and offers extra dynamic range for tricky, contrasty shooting situations. I wouldn’t push the ISO to more than 3200 in low-light situations for video, as noise becomes a serious issue.

With in-body stabilization and a flip-out display, the EOS R7 is a good vlogging camera. However, you’ll need to avoid jerky movements, particularly in the oversampled mode, to avoid rolling shutter. You’ll also need a fairly wide lens due to the crop. The two kit lenses barely do the job at the 18mm wide end, particularly with enhanced video stabilization.

Wrap-up A strong start for RF-mount crop sensor camerasEngadget/Steve Dent

With the $1,500 R7, Canon has largely nailed its first stab at an APS-C RF mount camera. It’s fast, delivers accurate autofocus, and offers solid video capabilities. The biggest problem with it is the rolling shutter due to the relatively slow readout speeds of the non-stacked sensor.

Its main APS-C competition is the $1,600 Fujifilm X-T4 and $1,400 Sony A6600. The R7 is better in most ways than the A6600 and mostly a match for the X-T4 – offering better autofocus but worse rolling shutter. Panasonic’s $1,700 GH5-II has a smaller sensor but is better for video. You can actually find several full-frame cameras cheaper, including the $1,300 Nikon Z5 and Canon’s $1,000 EOS RP, which has no in-body stabilization. The new EOS R10 is less capable, but also much less expensive at $980.

What’s attractive about the R7 compared to most of those models is that Canon has put in all its latest tech from models like the R3, delivering a speedy and dependable camera that’s surprisingly easy to use. Samuel, who uses exclusively Sony gear, put it best – he said that Canon is closing in rapidly on Sony’s technological lead, and if Sony doesn’t respond, it could quickly lose his business.

Crab-inspired artificial vision system works on land and underwater

Thu, 2022-08-04 08:39

There had been many previous attempts to develop cameras that mimic the eyes of insects, fish and other living creatures. However, development of artificial vision systems that can see both underwater and on land has apparently been pretty limited. Further, biomimetic cameras are usually restricted by their 180-degree field-of-view. Now, a team of scientists from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and Seoul National University in Korea have developed a new artificial vision system with a 360-degree field-of-view that can work on amphibious machines.

The team was inspired by the semi-terrestrial fiddler crab, which has a 3D omnidirectional field-of-view. They evolved to be able to look at almost everything at once on land and underwater to avoid attacks and to see communicate with fellow fiddler crabs. Scientists have apparently been having issues finding a way to sustain a camera's focusing capability when the environment changes, which is why this team has decided to take a closer look at the fiddler crab. 

The resulting artificial eye is a nondescript black ball that combines various materials and lenses. Its configuration allows light rays from multiple sources to converge at the same spot regardless of the refractive index of its surrounding — in other words, whether the device is underwater or not. The team tested the technology by conducting in-air and in-water experiments: To be specific, they projected "cutesy" objects in the shape of a dolphin, an airplane, a submarine, a fish and a ship at different distances and in various angles onto the artificial vision system. The result? They found that their camera was successfully able to see the objects whether they were or weren't submerged in water.

Young Min Song, professor of electrical engineering and computer Science at GIST, said:

"Our system could be of use in the development of unconventional applications, like panoramic motion detection and obstacle avoidance in continuously changing environments, as well as augmented and virtual reality."

Other potential applications Song didn't mention include population surveillance and environmental monitoring, which could make the technology an invaluable tool for keeping a close eye on endangered, vulnerable and threatened species. You can check out the scientists' paper with more details about the new vision system in Nature.

Microsoft Teams has finally been optimized for Apple Silicon Macs

Thu, 2022-08-04 08:17

Microsoft has finally released a version of Teams optimized to run Apple Silicon Macs, it announced. "For Mac users, this means a significant boost in performance, ensuring efficient use of device resources and an optimized Teams experience even when using multiple high-resolution monitors during calls or meetings," wrote Microsoft's Anupam Pattnaik. 

The updated app comes nearly two years after Apple revealed its first Silicon-powered M1 devices. So far, Teams has run using Rosetta 2 translation, resulting in performance issues like slow startup times, lag and more. One workaround has been to run the progressive web app version of Teams, which requires the Microsoft Edge Mac browser. 

Other Microsoft apps including the Office suite were available not long after Silicon-powered Macs debuted. However, the company only first started beta testing a version of Teams optimized for the new chips back in April

The new versions of Team will be released as a universal binary that runs natively on both Intel and Silicon-powered Macs. However, you'll still have to wait a bit — Microsoft plans to release it "in increments over the coming months." 

SoundCloud is laying off 20 percent of its workforce

Thu, 2022-08-04 08:00

SoundCloud is joining the depressingly long list of companies in the tech industry that are letting personnel go due to the economic downturn. According to Billboard and Variety, company CEO Michael Weissman told employees in an email that it's "making reductions" to its global team that will impact up to 20 percent of SoundCloud. Weissman said the move is necessary "given the challenging economic climate and financial market headwinds." Further, the layoffs and the prudent financial decisions the company had recently made apparently put it on the path to sustained profitability.

A spokesperson has confirmed the job cuts to Billboard, adding that SoundCloud is providing support to employees who have to exit the company. The online audio distribution platform last laid off a significant chunk of its workforce — 40 percent in all — back in 2017, when it was struggling financially. As Billboard notes, SoundCloud has secured hundreds of millions of investments and has announced its first profitable quarter in 2020 since then. 

In 2021, the company introduced a listener-based royalties model that could lead to better pay for indie artists, since subscribers' payments go straight to the artists they listen to. Warner Music Group recently adopted the model, becoming the first major label to do so. SoundCloud also purchased an AI music curation company called Musiio in May to help users find hidden gems before they make it big. Musiio's technology listens to songs, tags them and then inserts them into appropriate playlists. 

Based on SoundCloud's LinkedIn profile, it has 1,707 employees at the moment. If that figure is correct, around 340 people will lose their jobs. Weissman said in his email to staff members that the layoffs will affect employees in the US and the UK, who will be notified in the coming days.

The Morning After: Winamp, your old MP3 software of choice, is back

Thu, 2022-08-04 07:15

Winamp is the music software that just won't die. In the first update in four years, the producers described it as the "culmination" of years of hard work, including two teams and a pandemic-dictated hiatus. The result is a lot of under-the-hood upgrades and improvements, but it’s still the music player a lot of us remember.

Once upon a time, Winamp was the MP3 software of choice, where many of us kept our music files from fledgling digital stores and peer-to-peer apps. Parent company AOL (which was also once Engadget's owner) shut down work in 2013, years after the likes of Spotify took hold. But, following an acquisition by Radionomy, Winamp lives on. Still.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missedOnePlus 10T reviewSpeed above all.TMAEngadget

OnePlus’ mid-year phone refresh is unusual. The 10T has the fastest Snapdragon chip, but a lot of compromises. According to Engadget’s Sam Rutherford, it’s a solid device at an affordable $649, but say farewell to the Alert Slider, wireless charging and a dedicated US carrier launch partner — for now.

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Apple might delay iPadOS 16 release until OctoberThe company is struggling with the Stage Manager multitasking feature.

Bloomberg reports Apple might delay iPadOS 16 by a month or so. The main issue is said to be with the Stage Manager multitasking tool, which will only be available on M1-powered iPads. It allows users to resize windows and have them overlap. However, those who tried the beta by and large found the feature buggy — something we noted in our iPadOS 16 preview. Previous reports indicated Apple has new iPads lined up for later this year, and delaying iPadOS 16 could mean it emerges closer to the new tablets as well.

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Nintendo’s Switch sales drop as it contends with chip shortageGame sales also fell, but first-party sales improved.

Nintendo's Switch sales fell significantly last quarter, dropping to 3.43 million units compared to 4.45 million during the same period last year, according to its earnings report. The company chalked up the Switch sales issue to a parts shortage, the same thing Sony struggled with. "Hardware production was impacted by factors such as the global shortage of semiconductor components, resulting in a decrease of hardware shipments," the company said.

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NASA says retired astronauts must act as space sherpas on private flights to the ISSThe new policy aims to increase passenger safety on commercial space flights.

NASA will soon require a retired astronaut to serve as mission commander on all private flights to the International Space Station, according to an agency notice posted today. The policy — which has yet to be finalized — is intended to both increase passenger safety and reduce any strain on existing ISS operations. According to the notice, the new changes came after “lessons learned” on last April’s Axiom Space flight, where passengers paid $55 million each to fly on the first private astronaut mission to the ISS. The hectic two-week trip took a toll on both the ISS and Axiom crews.

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The best PlayStation 5 games for 2022Load up your new console with these excellent titles.TMASony

It’s Sony’s turn. As always, we looked for games that generally offer meaningful improvements over their last-gen counterparts when played on PS5 or are exclusive to the system. Our 2022 update sees two third-party titles — Deathloop and Final Fantasy VII Remake — join the overwhelmingly in-house fray.

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College textbook maker Pearson eyes NFTs to claim a cut of second-hand salesApparently, a $300 required textbook isn't enough of a grift.

NFT advocates often tout the technology's ability to grant the creator a cut of second-hand sales as one of its major attributes. That’s what intrigued Pearson, a major textbook publisher. “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” CEO Andy Bird told Bloomberg this week. “The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market.” Do you know why students resell textbooks? Because they're darn expensive.

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You can now buy Ticketmaster tickets on TikTokA tongue-twisting way to see tours.

TikTok has teamed up with Ticketmaster to help users discover events and buy tickets directly through the app. Music artists, comedians, sports teams and venues can search for relevant Ticketmaster events and link to them on their videos. The feature is only open to select creators at the outset. TikTok is increasingly focusing on music: Earlier this week, it emerged the company may be working on its own music streaming service.

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