Gamer Geek News

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Spotify added more paying customers than free ones last quarter

Three months ago, Spotify predicted that user growth would start falling, because COVID-19 had prompted so many people to sign up than expected. Today, the audio giant was proved right, as new signups fell to nine million new users in the most recent quarter, but slower growth isn’t always a bad thing. Of that nine million figure, seven million users signed up for Premium, versus just two million who went ad-supported. It means that Spotify was also able to announce a second successive quarter of profitability after a long period of losses.

The total number of Spotify users now stands at 365 million, of which 165 million are paying for Premium, while the remaining 210 are ad-supported. Converting more of Spotify’s vast ad-supported user base into Premium users is one way to ensure the company remains profitable. Another, of course, is to boost its growing advertising business, which has been bolstered by Spotify’s numerous podcast offerings. The company said that it saw “triple digit” year-on-year gain in ad-sales for the company’s owned podcast outlets, including The Ringer, Parcast and Gimlet.

The last three months has seen Spotify intensify work to push users toward cheaper forms of audio content than music. It says that Joe Rogan’s podcast has performed “above expectations,” while shows out of The Ringer saw big bumps in listenership as the NBA headed into the playoff season. No mention this month of how many people are tuning in to listen to former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen hang out, which was the second biggest podcast on the platform from the start of the year.

As for the future, Spotify says that it’s hoping to add at least 12 million more users in total, and at least another five million more paying customers. It is still expecting to reach the coveted 400 million user figure by the end of the year, although given the uncertainties still present with COVID-19, you never can be sure.

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 10:35 am

Watch Cassie the bipedal robot run a 5K

Cassie, a bipedal robot that's all legs, has successfully ran five kilometers without having a tether and on a single charge. The machine serves as the basis for Agility Robotics' delivery robot Digit, as TechCrunch notes, though you may also remember it for "blindly" navigating a set of stairs. Oregon State University engineers were able to train Cassie in a simulator to give it the capability to go up and down a flight of stairs without the use of cameras or LIDAR. Now, engineers from the same team were able to train Cassie to run using a deep reinforcement learning algorithm.

According to the team, Cassie teaching itself using the technique gave it the capability to stay upright without a tether by shifting its balance while running. The robot had to learn to make infinite subtle adjustments to be able to accomplish the feat. Yesh Godse, an undergrad from the OSU Dynamic Robotics Laboratory, explained: "Deep reinforcement learning is a powerful method in AI that opens up skills like running, skipping and walking up and down stairs."

The team first tested Cassie's capability by having it run on turn for five kilometers, which it finished with a time of 43 minutes and 49 seconds. Cassie finished its run across the OSU campus in 53 minutes, 3 seconds — it took a bit longer, because it included six-and-a-half minutes of dealing with technical issues. The robot fell once due to a computer overheating and then again after it executed a turn too quickly. Jeremy Dao, another team member from the lab, though, said they were able to "reach the limits of the hardware and show what it can do." The work the team does will help expand the understanding of legged locomotion and could help make bipedal robots become more common in the future.

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 9:30 am

LG will reportedly sell iPhones in its South Korean stores

Rumors swirled last week that LG would start selling iPhones in some of its South Korean stores, since it has stopped producing its own smartphones,. Now, LG has confirmed that it will start selling iPhones and other Apple products next month, ZDNet has reported. 

LG and Samsung agreed in 2018 to only sell their own smartphones at their respective stores so they wouldn't compete with smaller phone distributors. As such, when LG started to consider selling iPhones, it reportedly faced resistance from a smartphone reseller trade organization. Now that it has stopped making its own phones, however, that group has reportedly signed a new contract that allows LG to sell phones from other manufacturers. 

On top of selling iPhones starting next month, LG will reportedly sell the Watch and other Apple products. The company has 400 stores in South Korea, so the move could provide a significant boost to Apple. It could be to the detriment of Apple's arch-rival Samsung, though, which has essentially had the local smartphone market to itself since LG dropped out. 

Apple supposedly started negotiating with LG to sell phones in its retail spaces after the Korean company announced it would end production of its own devices. Both Samsung and Apple have been offering to pay LG smartphone owners up to 150,000 won ($135) to trade in their phones. 

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 8:15 am

Vivaldi's Accordion tab stacks expand when you need them and hide when you don't

At the start of June, Vivaldi released its 4.0 update, which added features like a translation tool to the privacy-focused browser. Its new 4.1 update is a smaller release but still adds a handful of handy features, including a new way to organize tabs.

Like Chrome, Vivaldi allows you to group multiple tabs to restore some semblance of order to your tab bar. In Vivaldi, those groups are called stacks. Before 4.1, you had two ways of using them. You could opt for either the compact view or the two-level one. In the latter case, the browser adds a bar that displays the tabs you have in that stack. The compact view, by contrast, only hints at the number of websites you have pinned to the same group.

Accordion tab stack setting
Vivaldi

The new "Accordion" stacks Vivaldi is introducing today give you a third option that is something of a compromise between its two siblings. The icon that represents the group will automatically expand when you click on it. Instead of on a second bar, you’ll see all the included tabs to the right of that icon. In that way, you can get context about your tabs without them taking up an entire extra element of the interface.

The other major feature the company is adding with 4.1 is called command chains. In Vivaldi, you can press “F2” (or “Command E” on Mac) to bring up a command-line interface, allowing you to quickly access most features without digging through the menu for the relevant option. Command chains allow you to group multiple actions and assign a name to them. Typing the name of the chain in the command interface will execute the included actions in a sequence. With more than 200 actions available, you have a lot of flexibility. For instance, you can create one that enables both fullscreen and reading modes at the same time. You can also assign the sequences you make to a custom keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture.

Outside of those features, 4.1 adds a timer in reader view that estimates how long it should take you to work your way through an article. Lastly, the browser’s Windows client will now install new features in the background automatically. There’s an option to turn off “silent updates” in the settings menu. You can try Vivaldi 4.1 today.

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 7:00 am

Rivian reportedly plans to invest $5 billion in its second US assembly plant

Last week, news leaked out that Rivian was planning to build a second US manufacturing plant for its electric vehicles and batteries, and now more details have leaked out. The company plans to invest $5 billion initially in the second plant, dubbed Project Tera, with construction slated to start in the fall of 2021, according to Reuters. The aim is to begin production by the second quarter of 2023. 

The second plant will reportedly include a 50 gigawatt-hour (GWh) battery cell production operation and a product and technology center. There's no word on where it'll be built, but the company is reportedly looking at land east of Mesa, Arizona, near Gold Canyon, according to Reuters' sources. Rivian Chief Executive R.J. Scaringe has reportedly spoken with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey about the project.

Rivian previously acknowledged that it's looking to expand. “The company has recognized that future production and product plans will not be fully met by the current capacity at Rivian’s Normal, Illinois facility,” it said in the document seen by Reuters

The plant would supposedly support around 10,000 jobs, though many of those could come indirectly. For a startup that has so far not produced a single vehicle, however, the investment and job figures would be impressive. Rivian is backed by Ford, Amazon and other companies and could reportedly soar to a $50 billion value in a possible public listing later this year, according to Reuters' previous story. 

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 5:22 am

Nintendo is shutting down 'Dr. Mario World' for mobile on November 1st

Nintendo transformed its Mario Kart and Pokemon franchises into successful mobile spinoffs, but it looks like another title didn't fare as well. The company has announced that it's ending service of Dr. Mario World, a mobile version of its highly successful Dr. Mario NES game, on November 1st. It will also end sales of "diamonds" used to buy buy more time, pills and power-ups starting tomorrow, July 29th. 

End of service notice: The Dr. Mario World game's service will end on Oct. 31, 2021. Thank you very much to the players who have supported the game. For details, please check this link: https://t.co/fC5qnRnLFD

— Dr. Mario World (@Drmarioworld_EN) July 28, 2021

Much like the original, Dr. Mario World is a Tetris-style game that lets you use pills to zap viruses of the same color. Unlike the original, however, everything moves upward so it's more natural to flick things around with one hand on a mobile screen. The mobile game also has a multiplayer mode so you can get friends involved. 

The game was developed by Nintendo in conjunction with Line, Japan's ultra-popular mobile messaging app. It launched on July 10th, 2019, just a hair over two years ago. Nintendo is keeping a vestige of the game on a web page called "Dr. Mario World Memories" that will allow players to look back on their history once the service ends. 

Nintendo launched another mobile, Mario Kart Tour, with multiplayer support in early 2020. That title has reportedly been downloaded 200 million times and seen relatively high earnings for the company. Its most successful mobile game by far, however, is Fire Emblem Heroes, which had reportedly netted up to $656 million as of February, 2020. Nintendo didn't say why it shut down Dr. Mario World, but it wasn't doing great compared to other titles shortly after launch, according to a SensorTower report from early 2020. 

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 5:03 am

WoW will remove 'inappropriate references' following California lawsuit

The official World of Warcraft Twitter account has announced that it will take immediate action to "remove references that are not appropriate for [its] world." While it didn't elaborate on what those references are, they may pertain to in-game elements connected to its senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi, as Kotaku has noted. Afrasiabi was singled out in the lawsuit filed by California authorities accusing Activision Blizzard of fostering a "frat boy" culture that's become a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women."

A message from the #Warcraft team. pic.twitter.com/3gWCz1gu8T

— World of Warcraft (@Warcraft) July 27, 2021

According to the lawsuit, Afrasiabi is known for hitting on and touching female employees inappropriately in plain view of other male employees who would try to intervene and stop him. He apparently has such a notorious reputation within the company that his suite was nicknamed the "Crosby Suite after alleged rapist Bill Crosby."(The lawsuit has misspelled Bill Cosby's name.) In addition, executives allegedly knew about his behavior but "took no effective remedial measures." Blizzard President J. Allen Brack talked to him a few times, the lawsuit reads, but gave Afiasiabi a slap on the wrist for the incidents.

Activision Blizzard denied the accusations in the lawsuit and said it "includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past" in its initial response. Executive Vice President Fran Townsend told employees in a memo that the lawsuit "presented a distorted and untrue picture of [the] company, including factually incorrect, old and out of context stories."

A group of over 800 Activision Blizzard employees decried the company's response to the accusations as "abhorrent and insulting." They wrote in an open letter: "Categorizing the claims that have been made as ‘distorted, and in many cases false’ creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims." At least 50 employees working in the company's main office in California are now planning a walkout on Wednesday to protest the company's actions and to demand better working conditions for women.

In WoW's announcement, it said the decision to remove inappropriate elements was made in order to rebuild trust. It admitted that it must earn people's trust with its "actions in the weeks and months to come," though it didn't say what other steps the company intends to take in response to the lawsuit's allegations. 

Posted on 28 July 2021 | 3:55 am

Twitter tests notification banner for suspended and locked accounts

Twitter is testing a new way to inform individuals who may have broken its rules that their account has been suspended or locked. With the start of this latest test, a small group of users will see a banner appear at the top of their timeline informing them that they can’t tweet, retweet or like content due to their previous behavior on the platform. In the instance of a locked account, the notice currently says most users regain access within a week. Meanwhile, with permanent suspensions, the banner points the individual to the company’s appeal process.

Knowing where your account stands is important. We’re testing a new way of letting you know — right when you log in.

If your account is locked or suspended, some of you will start seeing a banner making that clear. pic.twitter.com/fOP53keghz

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) July 27, 2021

A spokesperson for Twitter told The Verge the notices come in response to feedback the company has received from people who said they only realized their account was inaccessible after they tried to tweet or follow new accounts. Should Twitter decide to implement the banners, they could get a lot of work. In the second half of 2020, the company removed more abusive content than ever before on the back of more effective automated moderation tools and policies against hate speech.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 9:52 pm

Apple posts another record-breaking quarter thanks to the iPhone

Despite the pandemic, Apple has spent most of the last two years relentlessly upgrading its product lineup, and its moves are definitely paying off. The company just announced financial results for its fiscal year third quarter (for normal humans, the months of April through June), and the company made a shocking amount of money. All of its product segments (the iPhone, Mac, iPad, services, and wearables/home/accessories) increased in revenue year-over-year, leading to total revenue of $81.4 billion. As has often been the case, iPhone revenue of $39.6 billion made up almost half of that figure. 

Quarterly revenue was up 36 percent year-over-year, and as such profit grew in a big way, too — in fact, it nearly doubled. Apple reported $21.7 billion in net income, up 93 percent compared to a year ago.

As already mentioned, all of Apple's product categories grew last quarter, but the biggest winner was the iPhone. Revenue grew 50 percent year-over-year, making it pretty clear the iPhone 12 lineup is a major success for the company. Apple's services division continues to explode; $17.5 billion in revenue represented 33 percent growth, and the category makes more than double the money of any other division in Apple, with the obvious exception of the iPhone.

The company's "wearables, home and accessories" group lumps the Apple Watch in with devices like the HomePod mini and the new AirTags. It grew 36 percent and made $8.8 billion in revenue. The Mac and iPad had more modest gains, with Mac revenue increasing 16 percent year over year to $8.2 billion and iPad revenue climbing 12 percent to $7.4 billion. While the Mac number isn't an eye-popper like services, it's worth nothing that just a few years ago, Mac revenue was pretty flat, sitting in the $4 billion range for a while — but it seems like the M1 Mac move has helped spur some big increases.

As usual, Apple CEO Tim Cook is holding a call with investors — we'll update this story with anything we learn.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 9:02 pm

Microsoft's profits skyrocketed by 47 percent in Q4

Microsoft's business continues to thrive thanks to its leadership in cloud computing and productivity apps. In its Q4 earnings report today, the company reported a 21 percent increase in revenues compared to last year, reaching $46.2 billion. But even more impressive, its profits jumped by 47 percent to reach $16.5 billion. Microsoft's success is practically a broken record by this point — last quarter it saw a 44 percent increase in profit, and before that it grew by 33 percent — but it's still managing to beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts.

The key to Microsoft's growth is the same as it has been for the past several years. Its Intelligent Cloud business is seemingly unstoppable, growing by 30 percent compared to last year. And it's still seeing plenty of growth with Office, Linkedin and its other business apps, which together have increased revenues by 25 percent. Even its More Personal Computing group, which includes Windows and Xbox, saw its business improve by 9 percent. (Thatcategory saw a few dips in the quarter though: Surface business fell by 20 percent, and Xbox content and services saw a 4 percent drop.)

Microsoft's Q4 earnings aren't really telling us anything new, as the company's entire 2021 fiscal year has been strong. The company reported an overall revenue increase of 18 percent for 2021 ($168.1 billion), as well as a 38 percent jump in profit for the year ($61.3 billion). Microsoft's previous earnings report proved that it made out well during the pandemic, but now it seems like those gains aren't stopping anytime soon. 

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 8:37 pm

Google parent Alphabet made a whopping $61.9 billion last quarter

After several quarters of continuallygrowingrevenue, Google's parent company Alphabet announced today that it made $61.9 billion in Q2 2021. That's a jump of 62 percent from the same period last year, when the organization's revenue dipped due to the onset of the pandemic. Last quarter, Alphabet posted $55.3 billion in revenue. Clearly, the company has long recovered from the slump it faced from the pandemic last year. Like chief financial officer Ruth Porat said on an earnings call, its results are "lapping the impact of COVID on our business." 

Like it did last quarter, Alphabet's net income rose significantly, from about $7 billion in Q2 2020 to $18.5 billion in the same period this year. Most of its money continues to come from advertising and search, while Google Cloud and its "Other Bets" division saw modest revenue growth as well. 

CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement that "a rising tide of online activity in many parts of the world" and "long-term investments in AI and Google Cloud" drove the results. Pichai also said on the company's earnings call that it set "a number of records this quarter." Publisher partners earned more than ever from Google's network, he said, and Alphabet has paid more to its YouTube creators and partners than any quarter in history.

Pichai also shouted out recent developments in AI across Google's portfolio, including the upcoming Android 12, updated conversation technology LaMDA and more. He also emphasized Google Cloud, detailing developments in security solutions and Workspace, including the new Smart Canvas that it showed off at Google I/O. 

In addition, Pichai said YouTube Shorts (its TikTok-like feature) broke a new record by surpassing 15 billion daily views. YouTube subscriptions across things like Premium and Music also continue to grow. He also gave an update on self-driving vehicle company Waymo, which first launched its services to the public in October 2020. Since then, it's "served thousands of rides without a human driver," he said. 

Of course, since the bulk of Alphabet's money comes from advertising, much of the earnings call dwelled on how retailers used Google's product to market their services to consumers. Chief business officer Philipp Schindler also spent some time talking about YouTube's reach, and how it's able to reach an audience that traditional TV and broadcast networks don't. 

Though the company's Other Bets division, which covers its hardware products, cost a lot more money than it made this quarter, it's possible some of those investments will pay off in the months to come, since Google typically launches new phones in the fall. Porat closed the call with some statements on outlook, saying, "We believe it's still too early to forecast the longer term trends as markets reopen, especially given the recent increase in COVID cases globally." While it's not guaranteed to continue posting super strong results for the quarters to come, we're sure Alphabet is going to be okay. 

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 8:28 pm

US government sells 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli's one-off Wu-Tang Clan album

Back in 2015, before NFTs really became A Thing, the Wu-Tang Clan sold the only copy of the album Once Upon a Time In Shaolin for a reported $2 million at auction. The buyer, it later turned out, was former pharmaceutical exec and convicted dirtbag Martin Shkreli.

Perhaps better known as Pharma Bro, Shkreli became infamous for buying and jacking up the price of life-saving AIDS medication Daraprim from $13.50 to $700 per pill. He was later convicted on securities fraud and securities fraud conspiracy charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. A forfeiture judgment of about $7.4 million was also made against Shkreli, and the government later seized assets to satisfy the judgment — including the album.

All of which brings us to today. The government has soldOnce Upon a Time In Shaolin. Prosecutors didn't say who bought the album or how much they paid, but the sale covers the outstanding balance Shkreli owed the government.

So, after three years of being locked in a federal vault, and almost four years of being owned by the weaselly Shkreli (who tried to sell it on eBay before he was incarcerated), the album is once again in private ownership. Although snippets of the album have popped up online, you probably shouldn't expect it to hit Spotify any time soon, unfortunately.

One of the conditions for the auction sale was that the buyer couldn't use it for commercial purposes until 2103. It's unclear whether that stipulation is still in place, but Shkreli was allowed to play it at listening parties. Maybe the new proprietor of Once Upon a Time In Shaolin will feel generous enough to play it for Wu-Tang fans somewhere. Meanwhile, as is the way of things, Netflix is making a movie about the saga.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 7:28 pm

Activision Blizzard employees will walk out on Wednesday after harassment lawsuit

One day after sharing an open letter decrying the company's "abhorrent and insulting" response to a harassment lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Activision Blizzard employees plan to hold a walkout. According to Kotaku, at least 50 employees will protest the company's recent actions in person and call on it to improve working conditions for women by at least temporarily leaving their posts on Wednesday, July 28th. The Activision Blizzard Walkout will take place in person at Blizzard's main office in Irvine, California, and online, with the former scheduled to take place between 10AM to 2PM PT.

"We are encouraging employees to take whatever time off they feel safe to do," a spokesperson for the group told Kotaku. "Most of us plan to take the full day off (without pay), but we understand some people like contractors and associates, and those who are paid less than they deserve, might not have the ability to do so."

In a statement of intent the group shared with the outlet, they call on Activision Blizzard to end the use of forced arbitration for all current and future employees, adopt new hiring policies designed to increase representation across the company, publish transparency data on compensation and hire a third-party firm to conduct a review of the studio's HR department and executive staff.

Tech and video game industry employees have increasingly turned to walkouts to advocate for change at their companies. In talking to Axios, the workers who are taking part in tomorrow's action cited the protest Riot Games employees held in 2019 to end forced arbitration. They said they're "following along people who have come before us, especially Riot, and what worked for them and what didn't."

Walkouts have shown to be effective at pushing companies to change. However, they're not without risk to those organizing them. In 2019, following a protest staged by some of its employees over its inaction on climate change, Amazon announced its first-ever climate pledge. However, in the aftermath of the announcement, the company fired the two employees who led the action, an action the National Labor Relations Board found was illegal earlier this year.

If you want to support those protesting tomorrow, you can do so by using the #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag on social media.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 6:49 pm

Facebook recalls Quest 2 foam inserts over skin irritation issues

Working with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, Facebook has issued a voluntary recall for a component that comes with its latest VR headset. According to a blog post from Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook’s Reality Labs, “a very small percentage” of Quest 2 owners have experienced some amount of skin irritation after using the removable foam face insert that comes with every Quest 2 headset and Fit Pack.

Bosworth says Facebook conducted a review of its manufacturing process and found no unexpected or hazardous contaminants in the insert. Still, out of a desire to create “safe and unbelievable experiences for all,” the company is introducing a new silicone cover that fits over the component. Whether you’ve had issues with the insert or not, you can request that Facebook send you the silicone cover for free. To do so, go to the “My Devices” section of your account page and click the dedicated button that’s there.

Facebook is also halting sales of the Oculus Quest temporarily while it works with distributors to add the silicone cover to every Quest 2 package. The company anticipates the headset will be back on store shelves by August 24th. As part of today’s recall, Facebook is also introducing a new 128GB variant of the Oculus Quest 2. It will replace the existing 64GB model, and feature the same $299 price tag as its predecessor. The 128GB model will go on sale on August 24th, the same day the company plans to restart Quest 2 sales.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 4:34 pm

Netflix turned a Twitter account into an animated show

Yet another Twitter account has been turned into a TV show. Netflix has adapted Chicago Party Aunt (@ChiPartyAunt) into an adult animated series of the same name.

Actor Chris Witaske, who's perhaps best known for his role in Netflix series Love, is behind the account. Lauren Ash (Superstore) plays the titular aunt, Diane Dunbrowski in the show. Diane "has always been and always will be the life of the party, even when the party has long since been over" and "continues to live every day like it’s a 1980s' Styx tour bus," according to Netflix. The cast also includes Rory O'Malley, RuPaul Charles and Jill Talley, as well as Chicago Party Aunt creators Witaske, Jon Barinholtz and Katie Rich.

Of course, Chicago Party Aunt is far from the first Twitter account to be turned into a TV show. $#*! My Dad Says aired on CBS for one season a decade ago. Very British Problems, based on an account that pokes fun at stereotypical British awkwardness, debuted in 2015 and ran for a couple of short seasons.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 4:23 pm

Google TV update brings Discovery+ and more live TV to the Android app

Since its launch last year, Google has been rolling out its new TV interface to more devices and services. Last week, Android TV exported some of Google TV's best features including a watchlist, recommended tuning and detail pages. Now, it's the turn of the Google TV app on Android, formerly Play Movies & TV, an all-round entertainment hub for streaming, buying and renting movies and TV shows. Courtesy of a new update, the app is getting a fresh design and a raft of new reality, global and live TV programming.

As if the branding wasn't convoluted enough, to make things more complicated the service is only available in the US. For everyone else, there's the Play Movies & TV app, which is limited to digital downloads. 

With that out of the way, let's take a closer look at the new stuff. In terms of new content, Google is adding programming from Discovery+ and Rakuten's Asian drama streamer Viki, along with kids' shows from Cartoon Network, PBS kids, and Boomerang and live TV from YouTube TV, Philo and fuboTV. 

A new design, meanwhile, should make deciding what to watch that tad bit easier. Google is emphasising movie and TV shows with 16:9 widescreen posters, below which you can find Rotten Tomatoes scores. The company has also improved its discovery algorithm that matches movie and shows to your tastes. You can put it to the test by scouring the new rows of personalized recommendations, including new sub-genres like sci-fi thrillers and summer blockbusters.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 4:00 pm

Pinterest is giving creators ways to make money on the platform

Pinterest influencers might soon be able to make a living directly from the platform. The company has revealed its first set of monetization tools for creators.

Retailers have added hundreds of millions of Product Pins on the platform, according to Pinterest. Users who click or tap on the pins can buy those products. Pinterest is now rolling out an option for users to tag Idea Pins (its version of other platforms' Stories) with Product Pins.

The company says users are 89 percent more likely to be interested in buying an item that's tagged in Idea Pins than ones they see in Product Pins. That's perhaps because users can see how their favorite creators are using products and maybe take some inspiration from that. Creators can use affiliate links to receive a cut of sales generated though their Idea Pins.

Pinterest is adding another feature to Idea Pins — a "paid partnerships" label for creators who share branded content. Influencers who create content on behalf of a company can tag the brand in Idea Pins. Once the brand gives the tag the green light, the label will appear. The aim is to improve transparency and make it easier for creators to disclose paid partnerships.

“Pinterest is the place where creators with inspiring and actionable ideas get discovered," Aya Kanai, Pinterest head of content and creator partnerships, said in a statement. "With this latest update, we’re empowering Creators to reach millions of shoppers on the platform and monetize their work. Creators deserve to be rewarded for the inspiration they deliver to their followers, and the sales they drive for brands."

Product tagging on Idea Pins will initially be available on business accounts in the US and UK. The feature will hit other markets in the coming months. As for paid partnerships, select Pinterest users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru now have access.

Other visually focused platforms are focusing on ways to help influencers earn a living (and, crucially, to dissuade them from moving elsewhere). In April, it emerged Instagram is working on Creator Shops as well as a “branded content marketplace” amid Facebook's $1 billion push to court influencers. Instagram has also offered a paid partnership label since 2017.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 3:51 pm

'The Simpsons' gets a home arcade cabinet for its 30th birthday

Gamers of a certain age (cough) now have a way to relive the countless hours spent playing The Simpsons at your local arcade. Arcade1Up has introduced a retro cabinet that faithfully recreates The Simpsons Arcade Game (plus The Simpsons Bowling) as you played it 30 years ago, just without the gigantic pile of quarters needed to emerge victorious. In some ways, it's better — a remote play option lets other cabinet owners jump into the beat 'em up without leaving home.

Arcade1Up promises authentic artwork and relatively easy assembly.

Pre-orders start on August 16th. Arcade1Up hasn't mentioned a price, although the period-appropriate Turtles in Time cabinet costs $650 if you need a reference point. You're paying a lot to satisfy your nostalgic urges. Still, this might be worthwhile if you're looking for a conversation piece in your den or game room that ventures beyond the usual air hockey and pool tables.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 3:37 pm

Discord finally adds threaded messaging

When Discord announced its Stage Discovery feature in May, it said at the same time it was working on adding threaded conversations. A few months later, that feature is now available across the platform’s desktop, web and mobile apps.

Discord threads GIF
Discord

You can convert a message into a thread by tapping on the “#” button that appears when you hover your mouse over something someone said. Alternatively, you can start one from scratch by tapping the “+” icon in the chat bar and then selecting the “Create Thread” option. Either way, you can see all the threads you’re currently taking part in on the sidebar. When you open a thread from a chat channel log, it will appear in another side panel to the right of the interface so you can follow both conversations at the same time. By default, threads will automatically archive after 24 hours. The idea behind the time limit is to keep channels clutter-free, according to Discord.

If you’re on a server people with Nitro subscriptions have boosted to level two, you’ll also have the option to take part in private threads. These won’t appear in a server’s channel listing, and the only way to take part in one is if someone invites you to the conversation. Boosted channels can also make it so that threads archive up to one week after they’re started, instead of 24 hours after the fact. With the introduction of threads, Discord is also adding new permissions. Channel owners can decide who can take part in both public and private threads and manage them as needed.  

Discord is starting the rollout of threads today. Community servers can enable the feature early. On August 17th, however, the company plans to enable threads across all servers.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 3:00 pm

Waze will warn you about traffic jams and detours before you drive

Waze can be helpful for dodging gridlock and other headaches while you drive, but now it's helping you make a more informed choice before you start moving. The Google-owned company has revamped the pre-drive screen on Android and iOS to deliver considerably more info on the pre-drive screen.

You'll now see alternate routes, traffic levels, real-time reports and toll info, not to mention an explanation of just why Waze chose a given route. If the app recommends that you skip your typical route to work, you'll know what's to blame. You can still choose that usual route if you'd like.

The updated screen is already rolling out to users worldwide. In some ways, this is one of the more important Waze upgrades in recent memory. While Waze still thrives on its automatic route planning, this puts more control in your hands and might help more people understand how the app makes its decisions.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 2:48 pm

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series

Sony has launched its first vlogging-specific mirrorless camera, the ZV-E10, that borrows a number of features from ZV-1 compact vlogging model. At the same time, it's roughly based on the A5000 and A6000-series APS-C mirrorless cameras, with all the good (and bad) that entails. 

The two biggest advantages of the ZV-E10 over the ZV-1 are the larger 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and interchangeable mirrorless mount. The latter feature opens Sony's range of 60-plus E-mount lenses to vloggers, making the ZV-E10 much more versatile than the fixed-lens ZV-1. The larger sensor, meanwhile, will deliver improved light sensitivity and a shallower depth of field.

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 uses the aging 24-megapixel APS-C sensor found in the A6100 and other recent Sony models. While that delivers sharp, downsampled 4K video at up to 30 fps (or 120 fps 1080p), it's likely to have a serious amount of rolling shutter that's not ideal for its intended purpose. 

On the more positive side, it offers active electronic image stabilization and optical stabilization via supported lenses (though not in-body stabilization). That should smooth out handheld shooting pretty well, though don't expect miracles for walk-and-talk type vlogging — especially if rolling sensor wobble proves to be an issue. 

Size-wise, the ZV-E10 is smaller than any of the A6000-series cameras at 343 grams and isn't much larger and heavier than the ZV-1. It lacks an electronic viewfinder, but it's Sony's first APS-C mirrorless camera with a fully-articulating flip-out screen — a basic requirement on any vlogging camera these days. 

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 comes with Sony's latest phase-detect autofocus system, both for video and still shooting. That means you should get incredibly quick subject tracking, along with reliable eye, face and head detect autofocus. It also has an S&Q (slow & quick) feature that lets you record time-lapse and slow motion footage in-camera without the need for any post processing work.

It borrows several vlogging features directly from the ZV-1. The first is called "product showcase," a setting that allows it to instantly focus away from your face and onto an object placed in front of the camera. That's particularly handy for vloggers reviewing products, devices, etc. 

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The other is a bokeh switch that instantly sets the lowest f-stop available for lighting conditions. That way, you can have the background as defocused as possible, allowing your subject to stand out clearly. 

The ZV-E10 has a built-in, high-quality three-way microphone (left, right and central channels) that's designed to pick out your voice. That means you can vlog without the need to buy a microphone, though it still won't match the quality and voice isolation of a dedicated shotgun or lapel mic.

It also comes with a hotshoe-attached muff to help block wind noise, and if that's not enough, a wind noise reduction setting. If you do plan to use your own microphone, it comes with both mic and headphone inputs, and the hotshoe supports Sony's dedicated digital, multi-channel microphones. 

As for battery life, Sony claims you can shoot for 80 minutes on a charge or 440 photos. With the small body, it has just a single SD card slot and only supports UHS-I speeds — not ideal for burst photo shooting, but fine for Sony's relatively low XAVC video data rates. 

Finally, if you're into live streaming, you can connect the ZV-E10 directly to a smartphone via the USB-C port and stream directly to YouTube or other services — much as you can with Panasonic's latest GH5-II. It will also work directly as a webcam, streaming both video and audio (not just video like other cameras) so you can take advantage of its high-quality microphone. 

The ZV-E10 will be available in either black or white by the end of August and will cost $700 for the body, or $800 in a bundle including Sony's 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 power zoom lens. 

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 2:27 pm

AZIO’s colorful IZO collection looks great (and that’s about it)

With tech pretty much everywhere in our lives these days, some people would prefer it matched their personal style and decor. But sometimes practicality gets left behind, resulting in products that look good but don’t work so well. Here at Engadget, for example, we’ve tested a few fancy keyboards that didn’t offer the best typing experience. But despite our misgivings, these “fashion” keyboards continue to be popular with social media influencers. AZIO’s new IZO collection, out this summer, tries to be both fashion forward and functional, and it succeeds — to a point.

The collection has three main components, all of them wireless: a $140 mechanical keyboard; a $70 number pad that also functions as a standalone calculator; and a $50 mouse. There’s also a matching wrist rest and desk pad. The items are sold separately, and you can snag them in either white, blue or pink. I opted to receive my review units in “baroque rose” because it really is a nice shade of pink, in contrast to the bubble gum shades favored by companies like Razer.

Mouse, keypad, keyboard
Kris Naudus / Engadget

Regardless of which color you choose, each accessory is embellished with gold accents The keyboard, media dial, escape key and spacebar are all gilded and glossy. They stand out against the matte plastic used on the rest of the deck, and not in a good way. I also suspect that after several months of use, the coating is going to wear away and it’s not going to be pretty.

The keys are squircle shaped and lightly textured, so they at least feel nice to the touch. The typing… isn’t horrible. It’s actually perfectly fine, with good tactile bounce and a soft click with every press. But despite the blue mechanical switches it still feels a bit spongy compared to the other decks I have here in my office. I’m typing this hands-on with the IZO and it’s fine, but given a choice I’d switch back to my standards in a heartbeat. The IZO feels like a toy, which is disconcerting when I’m here to work. It’s a tenkeyless deck, which makes it great for tight spaces and taking on the go, though I wouldn’t slip it in my bag for fear of scratching it up.

AZIO IZO keyboard in pink
Kris Naudus / Engadget

If you need a number pad, that’ll cost extra. Seventy dollars is kind of steep for those 18 extra keys, and the fact that it can also be used as a calculator doesn’t make the cost sting any less.I will say this for it, though: I love this thing. Not because I use the number pad to do calculations (though I do), but because it’s just so fun to play with. I don’t have it connected or even turned on right now, I just like to randomly pick it up in both hands and play with the buttons. I may find the typing experience a little subpar, but as a fidget toy the numpad is great because it’s just so chunky and clicky, perfect for keeping my hands busy during boring Zoom calls.

The final piece of the set is the wireless mouse, the most beautiful of the three desk accessories. It’s a rounded rectangular shape, with a gold scroll wheel and stripe across the middle of the mouse, below which is a frosted white plastic bearing the AZIO logo. This is the kind of mouse that could strut around Milan Fashion Week or the beach at Ibiza. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bad as a computing accessory.

AZIO IZO mouse in pink
Kris Naudus / Engadget

It’s the hand feel that’s an immediate turnoff. Where most mice curve inward and down on the end facing the user, the better to fit in your palm, the AZIO mouse is straight all the way down, with the rear of the mouse at the same height as the middle. It’s actually one of the smallest mice I’ve tested, but it feels huge in my hand. That’s a big no-no considering it’s a fashion peripheral, presumably meant to appeal to women, who usually have smaller mitts than men.

The design faux pas don’t end there, either. The DPI button is placed on the bottom of the mouse and it’s a tiny little nub that’s hard to hit, so once you’ve picked a setting you’ll probably want to stick with it. And the pads on bottom have a little too much friction on them to slide across my desk easily. I probably should use a mouse pad with this thing but I haven’t needed one in almost a decade and I don’t see why I should go back now.

AZIO IZO keypad in pink
Kris Naudus / Engadget

I wouldn’t recommend the mouse and the cost of the number pad is a bit too steep for me to tell you to buy it — even at the currently discounted price of $40. The keyboard is also on sale for $80, which is a little more tempting. But if the color was your main reason for buying it, note that Logitech’s K380 comes in a fetching pale pink, can connect to up to three devices wirelessly and is only $40. You also have your choice of mice to match, including the stellar MX Anywhere 3. The IZO collection is for people who absolutely need to have a stylish mechanical keyboard — and even then, you might be better off just buying a white deck from a company like Corsair and customizing the LEDs to your favorite shade.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 2:00 pm

TikTok hopes new tools will create kinder, gentler live streams

TikTok wants to encourage more livestreams, and that now includes creating a friendlier environment for the hosts. The social video giant is rolling out a string of new features that include tools to promote kindness. For a start, TikTok will now pop up an alert if you're about to post a comment the company deems "potentially unkind or harmful." You can press forward if you're determined, but TikTok clearly hopes you'll reconsider any personal attacks.

Accordingly, the hosts will have more power as well. You can assign a trusted moderator before you start a stream, letting you focus on the show instead of blocking and muting trolls. You can now add up to 200 entries to the keyword filter. In the "coming weeks," you'll also have ways for both hosts and viewers to both delete comments and temporarily mute viewers. Someone who committed a minor offense can have a shot at redemption, in other words.

There's also a focus on improved discovery. An addition rolling out "soon" will improve your ability to find livestreams from the For You and Following pages, not to mention provider quicker access to top and recommended live videos. TikTok also recently launched a scheduling tool for hosts, picture-in-picture viewing and a "Go Live Together" feature that lets two people start broadcasting at the same time.

The focus on livestreams doesn't come as a shock. TikTok noted that the number of people hosting and watching live video had "doubled" over the past year, and some of its biggest events have involved livestreams. The Weeknd played a concert through the platform, for instance. While looping videos remain TikTok's core, the company is more than a little eager to challenge Facebook, Instagram and other services where live video is also growing in popularity.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 1:39 pm

Nothing's Ear 1 wireless earbuds arrive on August 17th

Nothing, the hardware startup from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has officially unveiled its first product: the Ear 1 wireless earbuds. If you've been following the teasers, you're probably familiar with the buds by now. Nothing already revealed the $99 price tag, pitting them against affordable rivals like the Amazon Echo Buds, OnePlus Buds and Google's Pixel Buds A; showed off the transparent design; and detailed the active-noise cancellation (ANC), which relies on a three-microphone setup. All that was really left was the release date and some gaps around specs, which are getting filled in today.

The Ear 1 will initially be available online at nothing.tech as part of a limited drop on July 31st starting at 9AM ET. They'll formally launch on August 17th in 45 countries including the US, Canada and the UK via the Nothing website and at select retailers. 

Nothing Ear 1
Nothing

As for those specs, the earbuds feature an 11.6mm driver paired with software and hardware from Teenage Engineering, best known for its portable music creation tools like the OP-1 and OP-Z. There are two ANC settings to choose from: Light mode for moderate noise cancellation and Maximum mode for noisier environments like an airplane. Whereas Transparency mode lets you switch off ANC altogether. 

What's more, Nothing claims that its Clear Voice Technology can reduce background noise like wind during calls. As is the norm, the accompanying app lets you tweak audio and EQ presets, and includes features like "find my earbud" and gesture control customization.

Nothing Ear 1
Nothing

The battery life lasts around 5.7 hours, slightly more than the 5 hours offered by Amazon's Echo Buds, though that will fluctuate based on the audio settings. Nothing says you can expect up to 34 hours with the charging case. Extras include in-ear detection and fast-pairing with Android devices. The buds are also splash and water resistant.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 1:30 pm

Omaze is giving away four-day passes to San Diego Comic-Con 2022

Those who religiously attend their local comic conventions now have the chance to go the biggest one of them all thanks to a new Omaze giveaway. The company's latest sweepstakes gives you the chance to win 4-day badges to San Diego Comic-Con 2022, with access to a special preview night. In addition to the badges, you're also getting reserved seating in Hall H for the entire convention, a personal concierge, a private tour of the Comic-Con Museum, dinner in Balboa Park and tickets to the "Night at the Comic-Con Museum" special event. The winner will also have travel to the convention and lodgings covered.

Enter to win at Omaze

The 2022 Comic-Con will mark the return of the in-person event in San Diego as the 2021 convention was postponed. Instead, the organization held the online Comic-Con Home from July 23-25 this year, and its hoping to have a smaller, supplemental "Comic-Con Special Edition" event in November, if conditions allow. You have until December 8 to enter this giveaway and the winner will be announced before the end of 2021.

Like other Omaze giveaways, you don't have to spend money to enter — and anyone can use the code AFF20 at checkout to get 20 bonus entries. But if you do buy entries, you'll increase your chances of winning. All funds raised in sweepstakes like this go to charity, and this one in particular benefits the San Diego Comic Convention, which is a nonprofit public benefit corporation devoted to increasing public awareness and appreciation for comics and similar art forms.

If you're unfamiliar with Omaze, it's a site that raises money for charities through giveaways and experiences. You can read more about how the allocation of funds works by reading the "Fundraising Transparency" section at the bottom of the giveaway page.

Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes.See official rules on Omaze.

Posted on 27 July 2021 | 1:16 pm