Gamer Geek News

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Engadget is a web magazine with obsessive daily coverage of everything new in gadgets and consumer electronics

Meta Quest Pro’s first update adds mixed reality screen recordings

The Meta Quest Pro is a classic case of the early adopter’s dilemma. Although the headset offers a wealth of potential for virtual reality enthusiasts, it also requires a $1,500 investment for something that — at least for now — doesn’t have the software to justify its price. Although today’s v47 update doesn’t fix that problem, it does take a small first step by adding mixed reality (MR) capture and background audio playback.

The first update since Quest Pro’s launch lets you record your real-world environment combined with virtual elements. Previously, you could only capture in-game action and the real-world elements would be reduced to a black background.

The feature doesn’t appear to require any settings changes. After installing the update, you can record MR video by pulling up the headset’s Quick Action Bar, navigating to Camera and tapping “Record Video.”

Background audio is another addition. While playing any game, you can stream audio from the headset’s browser or any 2D panel app (progressive web apps optimized for Quest), and you’ll still hear it when you jump into a game. The feature lets you listen to your favorite music or podcast while playing an otherwise serene VR game (fishing, golf and meditation experiences come to mind).

Meta also added several feature updates for its entire Quest lineup (also including the Quest 2 and the original Quest). Horizon Home, the cozy hub you see when you first put on the headset, now makes it easier to change your avatar’s appearance. It also includes a virtual mirror to check out your avatar’s makeovers in real-time. Additionally, the Meta Quest mobile app received a few updates. You can now make your game wish lists public to send to friends and family as a not-so-subtle holiday gift nudge. The mobile app also makes it easier to see friend activity and adds widgets for starting a Cast, including viewing your headset and controller’s battery life.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 7:24 pm

GE has a new smart mixer that can shut itself off when your dough is ready

GE has created a smart mixer that could help take more of the sting out of baking. For one thing, the Profile Smart Mixer with Auto Sense has a built-in scale that will enable you to measure ingredients directly in the mixing bowl — just be sure to add each ingredient slowly so you don't plop in too much.

It uses motor torque feedback to monitor the texture and viscosity of a mix. According to Crate and Barrel, which snagged the smart mixer as an exclusive product, the appliance will shut off when it detects that your concoction is ready for the next step. That should help you avoid having overmixed dough that results in overly chewy cookies.

Naturally, given that this is a smart mixer, there's support for Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. So, you can set the mixing speed without having to get flour all over the controls or washing your hands first.

There's a companion app that has more than a dozen guided recipes at the outset. Through over-the-air updates, GE will add more features and recipes over time. Furthermore, this is said to be the first smart mixer in the US with an advanced digital brushless DC motor system. That seemingly helps the mixer run at consistently high power with the ability to work stiff doughs without stalling or overheating. The smart mixer is said to run at a lower temperature than other models, which should help extend its lifespan.

If it works as promised, the auto shutoff function in particular could be useful for newer bakers who aren't used to eyeballing doughs for readiness. However, you'll need to have reasonably steep pockets if you want to pick up GE's smart mixer as it costs $1,000. Preorders are open now and the mixer should ship later this month.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 6:51 pm

VW teases second-generation ID.3 EV with design and tech upgrades

Volkswagen's electric car lineup is now mature enough that it's introducing second-generation models — and it appears the company is taking some criticism to heart. VW has teased a redesign of the ID.3 that addresses complaints about the first version while upgrading the technology. The compact EV now sports a "matured" design with a supposedly sharper-looking exterior and higher-quality interior materials. Importantly, it's also more functional — there's a larger 12-inch infotainment display, two cupholders in the center console and a removable luggage compartment floor.

The tech may be the centerpiece. VW stresses the new ID.3 will use the company's "latest" software platform, which boosts the sometimes-sluggish performance and allows for over-the-air updates. It will also reflect feature upgrades that include easier paid EV charging, adaptive lane guidance and parking aids.

VW ID.3 second-generation interior teaser
Volkswagen

VW won't formally unveil the revamped ID.3 until the spring, and pre-orders placed now won't arrive until the last quarter of 2023 due to "high order volume." However, it's keeping the current starting price of €43,995 (about $43,600) for the Life trim. Business, Style, Max and Tour variants will also be available.

There's no mention of which markets will get the new EV. As before, though, we wouldn't expect a North American ID.3 launch. VW remains focused on crossovers and SUVs like the ID.4 in this market, and its fledgling Chattanooga EV factory will still be ramping up production through 2023. All the same, the second-gen ID.3 will be worth a look as a preview what to expect for revisions of those models that do cross the Atlantic. They may not be complete reinventions, but they should fare better against stiff competition from the likes of Ford and Nissan.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 6:27 pm

Crypto scammer faces 18 months in prison over $22 million SIM attack

A young man is facing time behind bars for his role in a high-profile crypto scam. Bloombergreports a federal judge has sentenced 25-year-old Nicholas Truglia to 18 months in prison for allegedly taking part in a scheme that stole $22 million in cryptocurrency from blockchain adviser Michael Terpin in 2018. The perpetrators are said to have asked Truglia to convert Triggers tokens stolen from Terpin into Bitcoin after breaching the consultant's phone.

Truglia has been described as a member of a larger criminal group that relied heavily on SIM swapping, or transferring victim phone numbers to SIM cards under attackers' control, to rob crypto industry personalities. Terpin accused a New York State teen of leading the group following a private investigation and successfully recouped some of his losses. The teen pointed to Truglia and two other people as accomplices.

Truglia is the only person in the group subject to criminal charges, and is already facing civil penalties near $80 million for his alleged involvement. The relatively light sentence appears to have been influenced by Truglia's autism, which defense attorney Jeffrey Udell claimed made it harder to understand the real-world consequences of the theft.

This is far from the largest crypto heist in recent memory. State-backed hackers and online gangs have been linked to thefts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the blockchain. The length of the sentence is unlikely to deter others, for that matter. However, the sentencing theoretically sends a message that aiding crypto thieves is still a serious crime.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 5:23 pm

World Cup attendees can use AR to see stats for players on the pitch

Folks who are attending the FIFA World Cup in Qatar don't have to miss out on all the player stats they'd see while watching games on TV. The FIFA+ app has an augmented reality feature that allows fans to view the likes of VAR replays and alternate camera angles.

FIFA says that only people who are attending matches in person can access the FIFA+ Stadium Experience. According to a video that has gained traction, users can point their phone's camera at the pitch. An overlay will pop up that enables them to tap on a player to see things like their movement speed and individual heatmap.

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The VAR replays could come in handy for those who are in the stadium but aren't clear about why the referee made a certain decision. In the buildup to Japan's winning goal against Spain on Thursday, it appeared as though the ball went out of play (as shown in the image above). The referee initially disallowed the goal but overturned the decision after VAR showed a sliver of the ball remained in bounds. Having the option to see the VAR replay on their phone might have helped fans in attendance understand the call, especially if they missed it on the big screen.

The AR overlay looks neat and it could add to the experience of being at a game for some folks. On the other hand, it's the World Cup and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sometimes, it's okay to keep your phone away and be truly immersed in what's going on around you.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 5:02 pm

iPhone users can now share their digital car keys with Pixel owners

You no longer need others to use the same phone OS to share your digital car keys. Google has added car key sharing to Pixel devices, making cross-platform swaps available in an early form. If you're using an iPhone running iOS 16.1, you can send keys stored in Wallet to a Pixel through communications apps like Mail, Messages and WhatsApp. Pixel users share their car access through Android's wallet app.

Google plans to expand sharing to more phones using Android 12 or newer. Only a handful of car makers currently support digital car keys, including BMW and Hyundai brands that include Genesis and Kia. Some cars may require that you activate through a physical key or code, while others might ask you to start the process through the vehicle's infotainment screen.

Note that this isn't the same as the remote or proximity-based lock controls you get from companies like Tesla — this treats your phone like a physical key that requires getting close to the door. On phones with ultra-wideband, such as many recent iPhones and larger Galaxy S21/S22 models, you can unlock your car without taking the phone out of your pocket or using a smartwatch.

Companies across the industry, including Apple and Google, are hoping to make a publicly available standard for digital car key sharing. While there's no timeline for when this might happen, the appeal is clear. You could lend your car to a friend for the weekend regardless of the phone they use, and without handing over a fob. That could be crucial as car ownership declines and people are more likely to borrow vehicles than rent or use ridesharing services.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 4:25 pm

Roku's Streaming Stick 4K is on sale for $25, plus all the Cyber Week deals you can still get

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be behind us, but many of the deals are still live as of today. A few deals even popped up after the shopping holidays ended, keeping our deals radar from getting rusty. Samsung still has a few good discounts including the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Frame TVs. Apple's latest iPad is $30 off and sales on a few games for the PS5 and Nintendo Switch are still going strong. If you missed out on Black Friday or still have some shopping to do, now is a good time to grab an Instant Pot for holiday cooking, a Roomba to keep the floors spotless or a great pair of earbuds to unwind with some music. Here are the best deals from Cyber Week that you can still get today.       

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Most of Roku's streaming devices are still on sale. Including the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which is half price. At just $25, it matches the price of Amazon's 4K stick, and it's our current favorite streaming device. The Roku Streambar is down to $80, which is $50 less than usual and a record low. Roku's 2022 Ultra set-top box has dropped to a new low of $69.

Roku's Streaming Stick 4K is on sale for $25 right now, which is half off its usual price. This small dongle connects directly to your TV's HDMI port and streams content in 4K, supports Dolby Vision and offers voice command capabilities via its remote. And finally, Roku's Express has dropped to $18 which is one of the best prices we've seen. If you just want an inexpensive streaming device with basic features, the Express is a solid option.

Shop the Roku sale at Amazon

Galaxy Z Fold4

While its design hasn't changed a ton, the new Galaxy Z Fold 4 has a number of upgrades including better battery life, improved cameras and a brighter main display.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is $450 off right now, bringing the rather expensive foldable phone down to $1350 for the 256GB configuration. That includes a $100 "not trade-in" credit. If you do have an old phone to turn in, you'll get at least $300 credit (if it's a Galaxy device) and up to $1,000, depending on the phone and condition. We gave it an Engadget score of 86 with particular praise for the longer zoom on the upgraded cameras and an improved battery life that lasted 17 hours and 13 minutes in our test, which is three more hours than the previous generation. The Z Fold 4 is also great at multitasking. In the end, we called it "a cutting-edge device that’s actually ready for the mainstream."

Buy Galaxy Z Fold 4 at Samsung - $1,350

2022 iPad

Apple's 2022 standard-model iPad is the 10th generation of the multipurpose slate, earning an 85 in our review back in October. We were concerned at the price hike over the previous generation, which brought it to a steep $449. But now that it's going for $419, it's a little easier on your wallet. What we did like was the complete redesign, the solid 10-plus hours of battery, and the addition of a landscape-oriented front-facing camera. Note that the iPad standard only works with the first generation of the Apple Pencil.

Buy iPad (10th gen) at Amazon - $419

Xbox Series S

Xbox Series S
Engadget

The Xbox Series S is down to $240 at Amazon, and Woot has the device available for $220 outright — albeit for an international model, which means your instruction manual may be in Spanish — but it's a full $80 off the usual $300.

The Series S is good value for PlayStation or Switch users who want a cheaper way into the Xbox ecosystem. We gave the Series S a review score of 85 at launch, noting that while it isn't doesn't handle 4K gaming and won't play physical games (just digital versions), it can still play all the same games as the pricier Xbox Series X and offers incredibly smooth gameplay.

Buy Xbox Series S at Amazon - $240

Anker 577 Thunderbolt docking station

Anker’s 577 Thunderbolt docking station is what we recommend getting for people who work from home. It's a multi-purpose, powerful brick into which you can plug all of your necessities. With 13 ports, there’s a good chance every peripheral you use will find a home. Plus it supports 85W laptop charging power your your machine as you use it.

Buy Anker 577 docking station at Amazon - $240

Samsung 2022 Frame TV

Samsung The Frame
Amy Skorheim

Right now, Woot is running a sale on Samsung's 2022 Frame TVs that includes some of the best prices we've seen. The best value is the 50-inch model, which is down to $870 — a healthy 33 percent off. You'll see steep discounts across the range, though, including the sweet-spot 55-inch and 65-inch models (now $1,100 and $1,490). We like the Frame for its ability to look convincingly like art when you're not watching it. 

Buy 2022 The Frame TV (50-inch) at Woot - $870

Apple 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard

If you want to experiment with using an iPad Pro as a laptop, Apple's Magic Keyboard is one of the best typing solutions out there. However, like most first-party Apple accessories, it'll cost you. But you can get the 12.9-inch model for $100 less than usual from Amazon. Right now the white keyboard is down to $250, which is the lowest price we've seen it. We gave it an Engadget score of 84, appreciating the luxurious feel of the keys and precision of the trackpad. 

Buy Apple 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard at Amazon $250

Xbox Wireless Controller

If you need a spare gamepad for your Xbox or PC, Microsoft's wireless Xbox Series X/S controller is available for $40 at Microsoft. That's about $20 below the controller's usual going rate. The sale applies to multiple finishes, though some colors are priced at $45. Just note that these pads still rely on AA batteries by default; if you want one rechargeable battery, that'll cost you another $25.

Buy Xbox Wireless Controller at Microsoft - $40

Games for PlayStation and Switch

If you're looking to build out your game library, this week saw several sales on games for all three of the major consoles. Some were at or near their lowest prices to date and a few are still going on as of today. One of the most acclaimed and popular games of 2022, Elden Ring for PS4 or PS5 is currently on sale for $35 at Walmart, which is $15 below the usual going rate. One of our favorite sequels of the year, the robot-battling open-world game Horizon Forbidden West, is down to a new low of $35 for PS4 and $40 for PS5.  

For Switch, the over-the-top hack-and-slasher Bayonetta 3, which only became available about a month ago, is available for $45. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, another recently released hack-and-slasher, is at an all-time low of $28, which is lower than it was for Cyber Monday. 

Buy Elden Ring at Walmart - $35

Razer Blade 14

Razer's Blade 14 with an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX chip, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and an RTX 3070 Ti GPU is currently down to $2,000 at Amazon. That's about $350 off its average price and tied for the best price we've tracked. We gave the Blade 14 a review score of 84 last year, and we've recommended the similar Blade 15 in recent buying guides and gift guides. It can run hot, and you can still get similarly powerful gaming laptops for less cash, but the Blade still packs enough power to play demanding games at higher settings in a slim and slick-feeling design that weighs less than four pounds.

Buy Razer Blade 14 at Amazon - $2,000

HyperX Cloud Alpha

The HyperX Cloud Alpha is down to $55 at Best Buy which is $45 below the wired headset's list price and close to the best price we've tracked. It's a sturdy, no-frills gaming headset that's comfortable to wear for hours. A good set of non-gaming headphones will sound better for the price, but the profile here is still relatively well-balanced, and the included mic is perfectly fine for everyday party chats.

Buy HyperX Cloud Alpha at Best Buy - $55

Hisense TV deals

Most of Hisense's TVs are on sale for Cyber Week. If you're looking to spend as little as possible on a still-decent TV, then you can't get much better than Hisense's 43-inch R6-Series Roku TV for $200. It supports 4K content and Dolby Vision, plus it runs on Roku's smart TV operating system.

Shop Hisense Cyber Week TV deals at Amazon

Amazon Fire TV Stick streaming devices

Fire TV Stick
Amazon

Amazon's most affordable streaming stick, the Fire TV Stick Lite is still going for just $15 right now, which is half off its usual price. This is a good option if you want to upgrade an old, "dumb" TV in your home into a smart one. If you have a 4K screen, grab the Fire TV Stick 4K, which has dropped to $25 or 50 percent off its normal price. For Amazon's most capable streaming stick, grab the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. It's down to $35 right now. It has all of the features of the standard Fire TV Stick 4K: UHD streaming capabilities, Dolby Vision and Atmos support, and the live picture-in-picture feature. But on top of that, it has WiFi 6 support and a bit more RAM than all other Fire streaming sticks, improving its overall performance.

Shop the Fire TV Stick sale at Amazon

Vizio V21t-J8 soundbar

Vizio V21t-J8 soundbar
Vizio

The Vizio V21t-J8 soundbar is our favorite budget-friendly soundbar and it's down to $120 right now, which is 26 percent off its usual price and a near record low. You're getting a 2.1-channel setup with this accessory, plus a 4.5-inch wireless sub along with it. It may not have WiFi connectivity, but that's the main tradeoff you'll have to make. Otherwise, it supports HDMI ARC/eARC, DTS Virtual:X and Bluetooth, and it has a 3.5mm aux jack as well.

Buy Vizio V21t-J8 soundbar at Amazon - $120

MacBook Air M1

If you aren't worried about having the latest model, the 2020 MacBook Air with the M1 chip is on sale for just $799. We gave it an 94 in our review, calling it the best MacBook for most people when it first hit the scene, especially those looking for a casual computer. The M1 chip will still feel like a big upgrade if you're coming from an aging Intel machine, and we also liked this laptop's lovely display, lack of fan noise and good battery life.

Buy MacBook Air at Amazon - $799

14-inch MacBook Pro

Apple's 14-inch MacBook Pro is a still on sale for a whopping $500, bringing it down to $2,000. We gave it and the 16-inch model scores of 92 in our review, with appreciation for the fast M1 Pro and Max processors, excellent display and solid battery life.

Buy MacBook Pro (14-inch) at Amazon - $2,000

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 2 is still down to $600. This configuration has a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. We gave this 12.4-inch notebook a score of 86 earlier this year, and it earned a spot in our guide to the best cheap Windows laptops. It impressed us with its slick design, bright screen, good battery life and USB-C charging.

Buy Surface Laptop Go 2 at Amazon - $600

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

The 13-inch Surface Laptop 5 with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage is on sale for $1,000, which is the best price we've seen. We gave this machine a score of 83 for its elegant design, bright display, Thunderbolt 4 support and solid performance. We weren't as impressed by its 720p webcam and its non-backlit keyboard, but this notebook is definitely a step up from the Surface Laptop Go 2 and a great pick for daily productivity .

Buy Surface Laptop 5 at Amazon - $1,000

Microsoft Cyber Week deals

A number of Surface laptops and bundles are still on sale for Cyber Week, direct from Microsoft. The new Surface Pro 9 and the Surface Laptop 5 are up to $200 and $300 off, respectively, while you can save more than $600 on Surface Laptop 4 bundles. We recommend checking out all of Microsoft's discounted bundles, because they are some of the best ways to get all of the things you'd need — like keyboard attachments, styluses and more — to make a Surface machine truly your own.

Shop Microsoft Cyber Week deals

iRobot Roomba s9+ robot vacuum

The Roomba s9+ has been around for a couple of years and it's probably overkill for most people. At $999, it's certainly not cheap, but it did earn a spot in our list of best robot vacuums. Right now, you can pick up the high-end machine for $220 off at Wellbots when you use the code ENG220 at checkout. A final price of $779 is the best we've seen on this smart home gadget, In our testing, we found the s9+ to be an incredibly capable cleaner, and while on the loud side, it's no more noisy than other robo-vacs in this price range.

Buy Roomba s9+ at Wellbots - $779

Elektron Syntakt

The latest entry in Elektron's midrange groovebox series is a lot of things — an analog synth, a digital drum machine, an absurdly powerful sequencer. But one thing the Syntakt is not, is cheap. Right now though, the Syntakt is down to $799 across a number of shops. And while it's definitely focused on percussion, a recent firmware update added two new "machines" that focus on more melodic sounds.

Buy Elektron Syntakt at Reverb - $799Buy Elektron Syntakt at Perfect Circuit - $799

Korg Minilogue XD

When the Minilogue XDlaunched for just $650 it staked a pretty convincing claim to the best bang-for-your-buck synth. A few years later, and it's no less impressive. But its price has crept upwards to $730, but now it's down to $600. Korg is offering a number of discounts across its range, but the clear stand out is this 18-percent off on an incredibly versatile synth. It combines four voices of true analog polyphony with a digital synth engine and effects.  

Buy Korg Minilogue XD at Perfect Circuit - $600

UA Volt audio interfaces

The Universal Audio Volt 76 series stands out from the audio interface pack with a stylish look, low noise and latency, and large easy to use controls. What sets the 76 apart, from even its cheaper Volt brethren is the all analog modeling of its legendary 1176 compressor. The Volt 476 and 276 are both on sale, marked down to $329 and $269, respectively.

Buy Universal Audio Volt 476 at Reverb - $329Buy Universal Audio VOLT 476 at Perfect Circuit - $329Buy Universal Audio Volt 276 at Reverb - $269Buy Universal Audio Volt 276 at Perfect Circuit - $269

Monoprice Soundstage3

While its not meant to take on the road, the Monoprice Soundstage 3 is an excellent pick for at-home listening. Usually $250, the sale price is down to $200 right now. We like its minimalist design and clear, balanced sound. It gets 10 hours of play on a charge, but also has plenty of hard-wire ports if its staying in one place.

Buy Monoprice SoundStage 3 at Monoprice - $200

Bose SoundLink Revolve II

Bose SoundLink Revolve II is great for bringing your music outside and we found it had a loud and bright sound that carries nicely through the out of doors. It pumps out 360-degree sound and gets 13 hours of play on a charge. It's usually $220 but is still down to $180 right now.  

Buy Bose SoundLink Revolve II at Bose - $180

Solo Stove fire pits

Solo Stove
Solo Stove

Solo Stove's fire pits remain up to 40 percent off right now. We like these fire pits because, while on the expensive side, they are good options that don't smoke you out. Aside from the small table-top Mesa, the most affordable of the bunch is the Solo Stove Ranger, which is on sale for $180.

Buy Solo Stove Ranger at Solo Stove - $180

Chromecast with Google TV

Like the Fire TV and Roku sticks above, the Chromecast with Google TV 4K turns a "dumb" TV into a smart one, and right now it's just $40, down from $50. We reviewed it when it first came out and gave it a score of 86, particularly impressed with the Google Assistant integration.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV 4K at Amazon - $40

Crucial MX500 (1TB)

Crucial MX500
Crucial

Crucial's MX500 internal drive is down to a new low of $68 for the 1TB version, and you can find discounts on the other configurations, too. We've long recommended this drive for its standard form factor, its sequential read/write speeds of up to 560/510 MB/s and its AES 256-bit hardware encryption. It also has integrated power loss immunity, which saves all of your work even when there's a power outage.

Buy Crucial MX500 at Amazon - $68

Jabra Elite 3 earbuds

We were impressed with the Jabra Elite 3 earbuds at their list $80 list price, giving them an 88 in our review. Now that they're below $50, it's still a good day to get a pair. We called them the "new standard for affordable wireless earbuds" because they offer detailed and balanced sound with a booming low end. We got right around the estimated seven-hour battery life and liked Jabra's comfortable new design for the Elite 3 buds.  

Buy Jabra Elite 3 earbuds at Amazon - $50

Sony WH-1000XM5

WH-1000XM5 review
Billy Steele/Engadget

Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are down to $348 right now, which is the best price we've seen since they came out earlier this year. These are our current favorite wireless headphones, and Sony essentially changed only a few things about the previous WH-1000XM4 to make this generation even better. They have improved noise cancellation and sound quality, plus a slick new design and a solid battery life. We also appreciate their Speak-to-Chat feature and multi-device connectivity.

Buy Sony WH-1000XM5 at Amazon - $348

OnePlus 10 Pro

You can pick up the OnePlus 10 Pro smartphone for only $549 right now, which is the lowest we've seen it. The standout feature of this handset is its remarkably fast charging technology. You can get a full charge in just over a half hour using 80W SUPERVOOC charging. However, US users are capped at 65W SUPERVOOC, but that's still the speediest charging standard available stateside. Otherwise, we also appreciated the 10 Pro's lovely 120Hz display and its fast face-unlock feature.

Buy OnePlus 10 Pro at Amazon - $550

iRobot Roomba j7

iRobot's Roomba j7 is on sale for $349 right now, which is the cheapest we've seen it, and you can get the j7+ for $599. This is one of iRobot's latest robo-vacs and it has enhanced obstacle avoidance which lets it navigate around a robot vacuum's arch nemesis: pet poop. It also has 10 times the suction power of a standard Roomba, plus support for smart mapping and Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. With the j7+ model, you're also getting a clean base into which the robo-vac will empty its bin after every job.

Buy iRobot Roomba j7 at Amazon - $349

Blink Mini camera

Blink Mini cameras are usually $35 each, but right now Amazon is selling two for less than the price of one. On the same product page, you'll notice a one-camera configuration option, that's $30, so this really is a case where it's a better deal to get two. The Minis are motion-activated devices (as, in they aren't always on)and have built-in speakers and a mic so you can hear and talk to people (or pets) remotely using your phone.

Buy Blink Mini camera 2-pack at Amazon - $30

Echo Show 8

If you're still looking to pick up a new smart display ahead of the holidays, a newer deal on Amazon's Echo Shows may be of interest. The retailer is currently offering a bundle that pairs its Echo Show 8 with the Kids edition of its Echo Show 5 for $70.

We've seen the Echo Show 8 alone go for $70 for much of the last two months, but that still equals the lowest price we've tracked. Normally, it retails closer to $100. With this deal, you're effectively getting an Echo Show 5 Kids thrown in at no extra cost. That device is currently available on its own for $40, but its average street price over the last few months has sat closer to $60.

Buy Echo Show 8 + Echo Show 5 Kids at Amazon - $70

Disney+

Disney+ will switch to a two-tier model on December 8th. After that, the ad-free version, which is the only way the service is currently offered, will increase to $11 per month instead of $8. The new ad-supported plan will then go for $8. If you want to hang on to that $8 per month price for an ad-free plan, you can sign up before December 7th and pay $80 for a year of ad-free streaming. That works out to a 39 percent discount over the elevated $11 per month plan. If you didn't already know, Disney+ includes a dominating trove of content from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic.

Subscribe to a year of Disney+ (ad-free) for $80

YouTube TV

Switching to an all-streaming diet often means forgoing live TV and other content cable offers. YouTube TV is one way to get back some of the live sports, live news and "cable channels" you're missing. YouTube's limited time offer is still going and gives you your first three months for $55 per month, with no contract required. If you decide you like what you're seeing, don't cancel and the price will revert to the regular $65 per month.

Subscribe to 3 months of YouTube TV for $55 per month

Alo Moves

While some subscription deals time out after a few months, Alo Moves is still offering half-off annual subscriptions for life. The going rate for a yearly membership is currently $200, so this brings it down to $100. The online fitness service currently has more than 3,000 classes, and new classes are added weekly. You can watch on your laptop or via app on an iPhone or iPad. Yoga, pilates, HIIT, and core classes are available, along with meditation and mindfulness sessions, including a power nap sound bath.

Subscribe to a year of Alo Moves - $100

Masterclass

Masterclass memberships are annual and include access to all 180 classes they offer. Right now when you buy any membership plan, which range from $180 to $276 per year, you'll get a second free membership to give away. There are classes from Martin Scorsese, Usher, Carlos Santana, Questlove, Alice Waters, David Lynch and 100 other people you've heard of. Classes range from a little over two hours to five-plus hours and are broken into between 12 and 30 lessons each.

Buy two MasterClass subscriptions - $180 per year

Rosetta Stone

Like Masterclass above, this Rosetta Stone membership doesn't make you decide what you want to learn up front. And instead of a yearly membership, this one is for life. The usual price for a lifetime membership is $300, but is still half price right now. With it, you get access to all 25 languages Rosetta Stone offers, complete with customizable lesson plans and immersion learning methods. The deal runs from now through Friday, December 2nd.

Buy a lifetime membership to Rosetta Stone - $149

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps includes more than 20 apps, including Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator and InDesign. From now through December 4th, Adobe's sale takes 25 percent off the monthly price for your entire first year. That brings the price down from its usual $55 per month to just $40 per month.  

Subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps - $40 per month

Tidal HiFi

You can think of Tidal's HiFi membership as Spotify for audiophiles and music super fans, delivering up to 1411 kbps of lossless audio quality to your Android, iPhone or desktop. A membership also includes curated playlists, access to Tidal original documentaries and interviews with musicians, and of course it's all ad free. The holiday deal gives you two months for $2, and bumps up to $10 a month after that.

Subscribe to Tidal HiFI - $2 for two months

iRobot Roomba 694

The iRobot Roomba 694 is currently our favorite budget robot vacuum and is down to $180 right now. That's 33 percent off for a $95 savings that's close to an all-time low. We liked the way the 694 dependably cleaned both carpet and tile, and appreciated the excellent user interface on the app. Setup is straightforward, even for a robo vac newbie. It doesn't come with extra brushes and the spot-clean function is only available as a button on the unit itself, but we still think it's the best budget vac for most people.

Buy iRobot Roomba 694 at Amazon - $179

Shark Ion RV765

The Shark Ion RV765 is the runner up in our guide to budget robo vacs and right now it's down to $150, which is a super low price for any smart vacuum, especially one with a two-hour battery life. We particularly liked the adjustable wheels that automatically reacted to the "terrain" of carpet, rug, or hard floor, and the intuitive app for setting schedules and otherwise controlling the robot.

Buy Shark Ion RV765 at Walmart - $150

Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid

With a more than 50 percent discount, Eufy's RoboVac X8 Hybrid is down to $320, which is 51 percent off its usual $650 sticker. We gave the X8 a shout out in our robo vac guide for its great customization features, including a "tap and go" option that lets you direct the vac to a particular spot for extra on-demand cleaning. The hybrid X8 can wet-wipe your floors as well as vacuum them, and comes with a fillable tank and swappable cleaning pads to enable the mopping function. If you don't need your vac to mop, the vacuum-only Eufy RoboVac X8 is on sale for 40 percent off, making it just $300 instead of $500 right now.

Buy Eufy RoboVac X8 Hybrid at Amazon - $320

Meater Plus

The Meater Plus is the recommended thermometer in our grilling gear guide. It's still down $80 from its usual $100 price tag. While a wired version is certainly cheaper, we thought the price bump was worth not having to avoid the cables as you work with larger pieces of meat. It's got a 165-foot Bluetooth range and the single probe has two sensors, with one end reading the internal temp of your meat and the exposed end monitoring the ambient temp of your cooking environment. 

Buy Meater Plus at Amazon - $80

Instant Pot Duo

The Instant Pot Duo makes an excellent gift for just about anyone, but it's also a great way to add some extra capacity to your kitchen for holiday cooking. It dropped down to $79 for Black Friday and is still on sale. That's a 21 percent discount and a great buy, considering all it can do. It features seven functions in one unit, and can act as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker and warmer. 

Buy Instant Pot Duo at Amazon - $79

Google Nest Hub

If you like the Google Assistant for your smart display needs, the latest generation of the Google Nest Hub is half price, bringing it down to $50. The seven-inch screen is one inch smaller than the Echo Show 8, and the Google Hub doesn't have an on-board camera, which some might prefer. As a smart display, it'll happily act as a hub to control compatible smart home devices using just your voice.

Buy Google Nest Hub at B&H Photo - $50

Google Nest Cam

The Google Nest Cam battery is your best bet for Google Assistant-controlled indoor and outdoor monitoring. While they usually go for $180, they're $60 off right now, making them $120 each. These run on batteries and are rated to handle the weather outside, but they're quite a bit more expensive than some other cameras. They send high def 1080p video to your phone or smart display when they're triggered and are smart enough to tell the difference between pets, cars and people.

Buy Google Nest Cam at B&H Photo - $120

Amazon Echo Dot

When Amazon's Echo Dot first unveiled its new spherical shape in 2020, we tried it out and thought it was a well-rounded speaker in all senses of the word, awarding it a score of 88. For Black Friday it was 50 percent off, putting Amazon's smallest smart speaker down to just $25. Today it's bumped up to $28, which is still a fairly good deal on a speaker that'll let you control your music, lights, thermostats and more with your voice. The Echo Dot even acts as a WiFi extender, adding up to 1,000 square feet of extra coverage, if you use the brand's Eero WiFi routers.

Buy Echo Dot at Amazon - $28

Blink Video Doorbell

The Blink Video Doorbell is the least expensive doorbell in Amazon's lineup, and right now is down to $35 from its usual price of $50. You can use it wired to your existing doorbell wiring or run the unit on two AA batteries. Your first set of batteries is included and can last up to two years. The unit wakes up with a doorbell press or when it detects motion, enabling two-way talk. Wiring the unit allows it to activate your built-in doorbell chime. On batteries, you'll get alerts via the Blink app.

Buy Blink Video Doorbell at Amazon - $35

Logitech G435 gaming headset

Logitech's G435 gaming headset typically goes for $80, but right now they're just $49.88. They connect via Bluetooth or with the USB-A dongle for a lower-latency wireless connection. The built-in mics allow for in-game chat and post-game Discord discussions. They'll pair up with a PC and both PlayStation 4 and 5 using the wireless dongle, or via Bluetooth with PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch. You can pair them with your phone too, but keep in mind these don't have active noise cancellation.

Buy Logitech G435 gaming headset at Amazon - $50

Razer Kishi mobile controller

Razer's Kishi mobile controller turns your smartphone into a Switch-like gaming device. It's usually $100, and Black Friday knocked 55 percent off the list price. Now the Android version is just a tad cheaper, bringing the sticker to $40. It's the same $45 for the iPhone version as it was for the shopping holiday. The Kishi connects via your phone's charging port, as opposed to via Bluetooth, so there's no wireless latency. Note that this is the original version of the device, not the recently released V2. That version isn't budging from its $99 MSRP.

Buy Razer Kishi mobile controller at Amazon - $40

Razer Orochi gaming mouse

The Razer Orochi gaming mouse has an MSRP of $70, but right now that's down by half. This mobile mouse made the cut in our search for the ultimate productivity mouse. Even though we called it the most "forgettable-looking option," we were impressed by how lightweight and capable it is. It connects via Bluetooth or wireless dongle and runs on ether an AA or AAA battery, with up to 950 hours on a battery.

Buy Razer Orochi gaming mouse at Amazon - $35

Tile Pro tracker

The Tile Pro tracker usually goes for $35, and was down $28 for Black Friday, but now it's even more affordable at just $25. The BlueTooth tracker has a convenient lanyard hole making it ideal for a set of keys, but you can also attach it to a pack or luggage. Regardless of what item you attach it to, the Tile app makes sure that item never goes missing. Using Bluetooth when it's within 400 feet, you can make the Tile Pro ring to find things that way. When an item is farther away, the Tile app uses the Tile network to locate the item by anonymously pinging the phones of other Tile users.

Buy Tile Pro tracker at Amazon - $25

Samsung EVO Select MicroSD card

This Samsung microSD card is still on sale, with a 38 percent discount on the 256GB size bringing it down to just $25. It offers transfer speeds of up to 130MBps and even includes a SD adapter so you can use it with more of your devices.

Buy Samsung EVO Select MicroSD card at Amazon - $25

Kasa smart video doorbell

A doorbell that works with either Alexa or the Google Assistant, the Kasa Smart Video Doorbell is on sale for just $42, down from its usual $60. In addition to offering app-controllable two-way audio and 1296p video from the 3MP camera, the Kasa doorbell comes with a plug-in chime to let you know when someone rings your bell. This model doesn't have a battery option, so it'll only work by hooking up to your existing doorbell wire.

Buy Kasa Smart Video Doorbell at Amazon - $42

Samsung T7 Shield

The rugged Samsung T7 Shield portable SSD in 1TB is on sale for $100 right now, which matches its record-low price. We've been fans of the T7 lineup for quite some time, and the latest edition has a rubberized exterior that helps protect it from drops from almost 10 feet high. It's also IP65 water- and dust-resistant, and supports 1,050/1,000 MB/s read/write speeds.

Buy T7 Shield (1TB) at Amazon - $100

Samsung 980 Pro

If you need a solid drive for your new PS5, Samsung's 980 Pro is a good choice. The 1TB version with an included heatsink is on sale for only $120, and since it comes with that accessory, it'll be ready to go for your console. We like its read speeds of 7,000MB/s, its smart thermal control and the fact that you can maintain and customize it using Samsung's Magician software.

Buy Samsung 980 Pro (1TB) at Amazon - $120

Crucial X8

Crucial's X8 portable drive in 2TB is on sale for $140, which is a record-low price. We like this drive for its compact yet durable design that's drop-, shock- and vibration-resistant, plus its read speeds of up to 1,050MB/s. It also comes with a USB-C to A and a USB-C to C cable, so you can use it with almost any device.

Buy Crucial X8 (2TB) at Amazon - $140

SanDisk Extreme

SanDisk's 2TB Extreme portable SSD dropped to $145 for Black Friday, which was the cheapest we've seen it. Since then, it creeped up by $5, but is still a healthy 67 percent discount. You get up to 1,050MB/s read and up to 1,000MB/s write speeds with this pocket-friendly drive, plus a design that's IP55 water and dust resistant, that's able to withstand drops from up to two meters. We also like that it has a carabiner loop built in so you can attach it to your bag.

Buy SanDisk Extreme SSD (2TB) at Amazon - $150

Lexar Play microSD card

Perfect for bumping the capacity of a Nintendo Switch, Lexar's Play microSD card is on sale for only $15 right now. That'll get you the 128GB model, but this card goes up to a whopping 1TB of storage, and that version is down to $100, which is even cheaper than it was for Black Friday. This card supports 150MB/s read speeds and comes with five years of limited product support.

Buy Lexar Play microSD card (128GB) at Amazon - $15Buy Lexar Play microSD card (1TB) at Amazon - $100

Bose QuietComfort 45

Bose's QuietComfort 45 headphones are available for $249, which is $20 more than their all-time low but still roughly $60 off their average street price. This is an alternative pick in our guide to the best wireless headphones. We liked that the QC 45s have a more neutral sound out of the box, still-capable ANC and a design that's comfortable without sacrificing the ability to fold up. They also use physical buttons instead of touch controls. We gave the QuietComfort 45 a review score of 86 last year.

Buy Bose QuietComfort 45 at Amazon - $249

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 3 are on sale for $200, which is $40 off the usual going rate and tied for the best price we've seen. These are the wireless earphones we recommend if detailed sound quality is your chief concern. Their adaptive ANC is effective, their eight-ish hours of battery life is solid and their default sound profile should satisfy if you enjoy a boosted low-end.

Buy Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 at Amazon - $200

Sennheiser Momentum 4

Another honorable mention in our guide to the best wireless headphones, Sennheiser's Momentum 4 is down to $276, which is an all-time low and $25 cheaper than they were for Black Friday. We gave this pair a review score of 82 this past August, admiring the stellar 60 or so hours of battery life per charge and great sound quality right out of the box.

Buy Sennheiser Momentum 4 at Amazon - $276

Amazon Echo Studio

The Echo Studio is a bigger and louder version of the standard Echo smart speaker, built to deliver hi-res audio. It's usually $200 and doesn't often go on sale, but for Black Friday, it's $40 off the list price. We gave the Studio an 88 in our review, saying Amazon had finally nailed the audio element of its smart speaker lineup. With the larger build and speaker array, it's clear Amazon is trying to compete with other smart speaker manufacturers like Sonos and Bose with this one, and for the most part, it does a fine job of it.

Buy Echo Studio at Amazon - $160

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Posted on 2 December 2022 | 4:15 pm

TikTok and Bumble join anti-revenge-porn initiative

TikTok and Bumble are the latest tech companies to join an initiative aimed at reducing the spread of revenge porn — intimate images and videos shared without the subject's consent. They've partnered with StopNCII.org (Stop Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse), which hosts a tool developed in partnership with Meta. TikTok, Bumble, Facebook and Instagram will detect and block any images that are included in StopNCII.org's bank of hashes.

The website enables people to create hashes (unique digital fingerprints) of images and videos in question. This process takes place on their device. In order to protect users' privacy, the actual files aren't uploaded to StopNCII.org, only a unique string of letters and numbers.

Hashes submitted to StopNCII.org are shared with the initiative's partners. If an image or video uploaded to TikTok, Bumble, Facebook or Instagram matches a corresponding hash and "meets partner policy requirements," the file will be sent to the platform's moderation team. If moderators find that the image breaks their platform's rules, they'll remove it. The other partner platforms will block the image from being shared too.

The tool has been live for a year and more than 12,000 people have created cases to prevent intimate videos and images being shared without consent. Users have created more than 40,000 hashes to date. As Bloomberg notes, Meta partnered with SWGfL, the UK nonprofit behind the Revenge Porn Helpline, to develop StopNCII.org. SWGfL hopes that many more platforms will sign up.

The initiative builds on a pilot Meta (then known as Facebook) started in Australia in 2017 that asked users to upload revenge porn images to a Messenger chat with themselves. Meta promised to delete the images after hashing them, but the approach raised obvious privacy concerns.

TikTok and Bumble are joining the initiative amid increasing regulatory scrutiny on the former and a broader crackdown on revenge porn. The UK, for instance, plans to force platforms that host user-generated content to take down non-consensual intimate images more swiftly, as laid out in the government's Online Safety Bill.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 3:55 pm

What we bought: How Zwilling’s Cool Touch Kettle became my most-used kitchen gadget

I never got into coffee, but I do love a good cuppa. That said, I have zero respect for the natural process of boiling water. The internet tells us that water boils faster at high altitude, and I’ve been living between 6,000 and 8,000 feet for the past ten years. But I swear it was taking longer. Maybe chalk that up to the inverse relationship between patience and age. Somehow evading the laws of thermodynamics, Zwilling’s electric kettle does something spooky to water, boiling it in a fraction of the time I ever thought possible.

Officially called the Zwilling Cool Touch Kettle, it’s made by the German brand Zwilling J. A. Henckels, which I’d previously only known for their chef’s knives that have been around since the 1700s. I stumbled upon the kettle while researching knives for a kitchen roundup at a previous job and decided to buy one. Glad I did.

Zwilling Cool Touch Kettle
Amy Skorheim / Engadget

I’ve owned electric kettles before, but they seemed to boil water only moderately faster than a microwave. They also had suspect cleanliness issues, either not allowing access to the interior, or having the heating elements exposed and crusty-looking at the bottom of the kettle. No such problems here, though, with the Zwiling’s fully enclosed, fully accessible interior. I’ve had the kettle for over a year now and it’s got some calcium buildup, but not so bad that I’ve felt the need to clean it.

This kettle is part of Zwilling’s Enfinigy line and besides sounding vaguely indecent, Enfinigy is an indicator of the kettle’s energy optimization. Though it pumps out 1500 watts of power, it’s using those watts for a short period of time, automatically shutting off when water reaches a boil. Simple physics explains the efficiency at work here: the hefty amount of wattage, delivered by an equally hefty cord, fires up an internal element that gets hot quickly. The element sits directly beneath your water, sending heat into the well-insulated chamber where it can’t escape into the ether. Since less heat is wasted, there’s more going directly to boiling the water, and voila, hot water faster.

Zwilling Cool Touch Kettle
Amy Skorheim / Engadget

To prove its superiority, I decided to pit the boil times of the Zwilling kettle against my 1,200-watt microwave and natural gas stove. If I compared the results to free throw skills, the kettle is Steph Curry. The microwave and stove are me. In terms of numbers, two eight-ounce cups in the Zwilling boiled in two minutes. The same amount in the microwave took five minutes, and the stove got the water roiling in five minutes and 45 seconds.

You can boil as little as two “cups” at a time (more on that below), which goes fast and saves a bunch of energy in the process. In a ploy to cheat time, I now use the Zwilling to boil pasta water too, adding a tiny amount to a pot on the stove and putting the majority of the H2O in the kettle, transferring it over when it boils. It always results in faster mac and cheese, which makes everyone happy.

My only gripe is the lid. It’s got an easy-open, button-operated mechanism that raises the lid… halfway. Or a little more than halfway, to a 70-degree angle. That’s intentional and meant to keep people from burning their faces with steam, but I always wish it could open a little wider to make adding water and checking the level easier.

Zwilling Cool Touch Kettle
Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The only other issue I have is with the interior measurement markings. There are markers for metric liters, which are as straightforward as the metric system itself. But for imperial units, the cup markers are for “coffee cups,” which someone has decided means six ounces, instead of eight. Nice for that one-cup-to-one-tablespoon ratio for coffee, but trickier for cooking. Also do we need to add more complications to imperial measurements?

I didn’t even mention how good it looks. It’s going to live on your countertop its entire life, so thankfully the matte silver-gray hue and streamlined, single-button interface are lovely to look at. And operation is dead simple. Click the button to start, pull the kettle off the base to stop. The button on the lid is in just the right spot, ergonomically speaking, and the pour is smooth and as slow or fast as your preferred drink requires – from an herbal tea flood to a thin pour-over stream. Not all kettles are worthy of a $115 price tag, but this one is.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 3:35 pm

Huawei teases a smartwatch with built-in wireless earbuds

As convenient as wireless earbuds can be, you typically have to carry a case around to store and charge them. Wouldn't you rather free up your pocket? Huawei thinks so. As The Registernotes, the Chinese brand has teased a Watch Buds smartwatch that includes earbuds you charge beneath the dial. Official details will have to wait as the company has delayed a winter consumer launch event slated for today, but there are already some clues as to how this oddball design will work.

Huawei Central has obtained photos indicating that the earbuds attach to the underside of the dial and sit in recesses when the watch is closed. The design is similar to that of the Watch GT series, complete with a steel case and leather strap, and reportedly runs Huawei's in-house HarmonyOS. While the specs aren't available, it won't be surprising if there's a large battery when the watch has to power both itself and the buds.

An early hands-on video from QSQTechnology, meanwhile, suggests that the earbuds attach to the watch through magnets. The buds' design is unremarkable, and doesn't look especially comfortable — this is about convenience more than anything.

It's not certain when Huawei will formally announce the Watch Buds, nor is it clear which countries will get them. We definitely wouldn't count on a US launch given Huawei's persona non grata status. However, it won't be surprising if there's a market for the design. You could listen to music on a walk without carrying anything beyond your smartwatch, and you'd never have to worry about misplacing a charging case.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 3:00 pm

Engadget Podcast: Kindle Scribe review and the rise of Twitter clones

Finally, a Kindle you can write on! This week, we dive into Cherlynn’s review of the Kindle Scribe, Amazon’s first e-reader that can also capture handwritten notes. The hardware is great, but as usual, Amazon’s software feels half-baked. Also, Devindra and Cherlynn discuss the rise of new Twitter alternatives like Hive Social and Post. It looks like many communities are already splintering off to these services, but unfortunately, they can’t yet replicate the magic of Twitter.

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

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Livestream

Credits
Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos
Graphic artists: Luke Brooks and Brian Oh

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 1:30 pm

Apple's upcoming mixed reality headset will reportedly run 'xrOS'

Apple has internally changed the name of its upcoming mixed reality headset's accompanying software from "realityOS" to "xrOS," according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As the reporter notes, the new name better represents the software's capabilities: "XR," after all, stands for extended reality, and the headset is expected to have both augmented and virtual reality features. 

In addition to the internal name change, Gurman says a shell corporation named Deep Dive LLC has also filed a trademark for the brand "xrOS" in the US and in other countries, including ones in the European Union and in Asia, the UK, Australia, Mexico, Ukraine, Japan and Canada. In its application, Deep Dive wrote that it's applying for a trademark for "head-mounted displays" and devices that provide "virtual reality and augmented reality experiences." Apple hasn't confirmed whether it's behind this filing. 

Earlier this year, though, Vox Media product manager Parker Ortolanifound a patent application for "realityOS" filed by a shell company called Realityo Systems LLC. Bloomberg also reported back in August that yet another shell company with a different name filed applications for "Reality One," "Reality Pro" and "Reality Processor."

This recent name change could indicate that Apple is ironing out the details of the project for its approaching launch. Gurman says Apple plans to debut the headset, its dedicated operating system and its app store sometime next year. According to previous reports, the device will feature virtual versions of the company's apps, including Messages, FaceTime and Maps, and will use iris scanning for app purchases and sign-ins. Apple's recent job listings also indicate that the tech giant is working on its own 3D mixed reality world, which could become a rival to Facebook's vision of the metaverse

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 1:05 pm

The Morning After: Valve is giving away over a hundred Steam Decks

Valve’s portable gaming PC handheld is a revelation for some, but it’s also expensive. So, you could try your luck getting a free one. To coincide with this year’s Game Awards, Valve is making its own Steam TV coverage of the show more enticing by giving away lots of Steam Deck consoles.

There are a few eligibility criteria, however. You have to watch the event on Steam TV, which starts at 7:30 PM ET on December 8th, and you have to register on the giveaway's official page beforehand to enter the draw. And you can only register and win if you're in the US, Canada, UK or the EU, where the console is currently available. On top of all that, you must have made a Steam purchase in the year ending November 14th, 2022. That should thin the herd a little.

The Game Awards are expanding “live” experiences (which aren’t actually live) with IMAX theater showings across several cities in the US, Canada and other countries. This will also be the first year to feature a new Best Adaptation category, for projects that spin out games into movies, TV shows and more. Sonic the Hedgehog, this is your doing.

– Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Tesla finally delivers its first production Semi

Pepsi will be the first customer to receive the electrified cargo transports.

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Tesla

Five years after CEO Elon Musk officially unveiled his Semi, Tesla’s electrified truck, the company delivered its first official production vehicle to Pepsi – the first of 100 ordered by the drinks maker. Originally, the Tesla Semi was set to retail at $150,000 and $180,000 for the 300- and 500-mile versions, respectively. Those prices are significantly higher than the $60k a standard diesel cab costs, but Tesla estimates its vehicles can operate 20 percent more efficiently and save up to $250,000 over the million-mile life of the Semi. Musk said the vehicle comes with a massive 1MW battery pack. This reportedly offers a 20-second 0 to 60, which is impressive given these vehicles are towing up to 80,000 pounds at a time, and a spent-to-80 percent charge time of just 30 minutes.

Continue reading.

'The Callisto Protocol' didn't scare me

So many guns.

TMA
Engadget

Engadget’s Jessica Conditt strapped herself in for the sci-fi horror that is The Callisto Protocol. It’s a gory, gorgeous horror game that, unfortunately, lets itself down. The game comes from Striking Distance Studios and Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, and there are a few familiar touches, like using gravity to explore all this horrible stuff in space. However, controls seem to rebel, while other game mechanics don’t trigger when they should, meaning lots of frustration and lots of game-over screens. The biggest tragedy of The Callisto Protocol is that it’s just not that scary.

Continue reading.

LastPass reveals another security breach

The password manager was hacked in August this year.

LastPass password manager has been breached again. The company detected unusual activity in a third-party cloud storage service it shares with its parent company. So far, they've determined the unauthorized party got into LastPass' cloud service by using information obtained from the security breach it suffered this August. The password manager and its parent company are still investigating the incident to understand its scope, so we'll likely hear more details in the coming months.

Continue reading.

Nintendo vows to fix ‘Pokémon Scarlet’ and ‘Violet’ after a rough launch

Sure, it’s popular but messy.

Alongside an update this week, Nintendo said it was taking player feedback "seriously" as it planned fixes. The patch both introduces ranked battles and addresses numerous bugs, including inconsistent music playback during key events. The creature-collecting game routinely suffers from poor frame rates, particularly in busy areas, like cities. It's also common to encounter crashes, visual flaws and show-stopping bugs, like getting stuck in the terrain. It’s far from the polished gaming experience you’d expect from Nintendo.

Continue reading.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 12:15 pm

Ye's Twitter account suspended again following swastika tweet

Twitter has given Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, at least a 12-hour suspension after he tweeted a photo of the Star of David merged with the swastika. In a public exchange on Twitter, CEO Elon Musk first told the rapper that tweeting a photo of him being hosed down on a yacht was fine, but tweeting the antisemitic image was not. 

Ye then posted a screenshot of his account on Truth Social, the social media platform backed by Donald Trump, showing that his account has been limited for 12 hours for violating Twitter's Terms of Service. Also included was a screenshot of his private exchange with Musk, wherein the executive said: "Sorry, but you have gone too far. This is not love." 

Musk explained in a series of follow-up tweets that he tried his best to communicate with Ye, but the rapper still chose to violate Twitter's rule against inciting violence. Twitter had already suspended Ye in October for posting antisemitic messages that said he would go "death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE." His account was reinstated in November, along with other controversial personalities', such as former President Donald Trump's and Marjorie Taylor Greene's.

Shortly after he was suspended on both Twitter and Instagram in October, Ye entered a deal to acquire the "free speech" social media app Parler. "In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves," Ye said back then. Yesterday, however, Parlement announced that the acquisition will no longer push through. 

While Parler said that they had mutually agreed to "terminate the intent of sale" in mid-November, the news came out after Ye's guesting on Alex Jones' podcast InfoWars. During the interview, Ye went on an antisemitic tirade, wherein he denied the Holocaust while praising Nazis and Hitler.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 11:15 am

FCC allows SpaceX to deploy 7,500 second-gen Starlink satellites

SpaceX first asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy 29,988 second-generation Starlink satellites back in 2020. Now, the FCC has granted its request — partially, at least. The commission has given the company the go-ahead to build, deploy and operate up to 7,500 satellites for its Gen2 constellation at the altitudes of 525 km, 530 km and 535 km. In its announcement, the FCC said approving 7,500 satellites for the constellation will allow SpaceX to provide broadband internet to users worldwide, even those living in far-flung areas. 

The FCC is limiting the number of satellites SpaceX can deploy for now, though, to address concerns about orbital debris and space safety. It says the limited grant will help maintain a safe space environment and protect other satellite and terrestrial operators from harmful interference. Several companies and even NASA previously raised concerns about SpaceX's plan to deploy an additional 30,000 satellites, considering the FCC already granted it permission to launch 12,000 first-gen Starlink satellites. 

In NASA's letter to the commission, it talked about an expanded constellation's potential impacts to its science and human spaceflight missions. A massive number of Starlink satellites, it said, could cause an increase in collision risks and lead to fewer launch windows. That said, the FCC is only deferring "action on the remainder of SpaceX's application" for now, so it may approve additional deployments. 

SpaceX chief Elon Musk previously revealed that the second-gen Starlink satellites will be much bigger than their predecessor and will need to be launch on the company's Starship launch vehicle. One of the reasons they're bigger is because of their massive antennas that will have the capability to communicate with phones here on Earth, like mobile towers in the sky. Indeed, the the collaboration T-Mobile and SpaceX announced in August will depend on Starlink's second-gen satellites. The companies aim to end mobile deadzones with their partnership and to provide connectivity wherever there's a clear view of the sky, even if it's in the middle of the ocean. 

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 10:03 am

'The Mandalorian' season 3 arrives on March 1st

Mandalorian fans, you can now fire up your calendars and add a very important reminder for March 1st, 2023. The third season of The Mandalorian will premiere that day and will be available for streaming on Disney+, the show's official Twitter account has revealed. Disney was originally aiming for a February 2023 release date, as Ars Technica notes, but a short delay isn't too bad. 

The company released its first teaser trailer for the show at this year's D23 Expo in September, showing Grogu (formerly known as baby Yoda on the internet) and Mando (or Din Djarin) reunited. If you'll recall, the Grogu left with Luke Skywalker by the end of season 2 to finish his Force training at the latter's Jedi Temple. The trailer also gives us a glimpse of Mando dealing with the consequences of removing his helmet and showing his face to other people, which is a huge no-no for members of his religious sect

The Mandalorian and Grogu return March 1 only on @DisneyPlus. pic.twitter.com/h0NrVMIT4V

— The Mandalorian (@themandalorian) December 1, 2022

By the time season 3 comes out, it would've been over two years after the release of the show's second season. That said, Mando and Grogu were featured in The Book of Boba Fett, which was a spin-off of The Mandalorian released last year. Grogu also got the Hayao Miyazaki treatment for the Lucasfilm-Studio Ghibli animated short Zen - Grogu and Dust Bunnies that was released for streaming in November. 

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 6:30 am

'The Callisto Protocol' didn't scare me, it just made me mad

The Callisto Protocol is beautiful. Please keep this fact in mind while consuming the numerous criticisms that follow in this review. When I mention how imprecise the mechanics are during horde combat, know that the ensuing death screens are pristine. As I talk about my protagonist stalling at the base of a short wall while I frantically mash the vault button, remember that the festering wounds of the monster that rips off my head are juicy and gorgeously rendered. While I try and fail to swap weapons or dodge, remember, through all of this frustration, The Callisto Protocol is stunning on PlayStation 5. Unfortunately, it’s just not a great video game.

I had high hopes for The Callisto Protocol. I played an hour-long preview a few months ago, and I walked away with stars in my eyes and visions of blood-soaked mutants dancing through my head. The portion that I tried was horrific, mechanically satisfying and gorgeous, and it laid the foundation for an expansive world of familiar sci-fi terror. The Callisto Protocol comes from Striking Distance Studios and Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield, and it shares DNA with that classic horror hit, including its lack of a HUD, the stomping and gravity-controlling abilities, and a de-emphasis on headshots overall.

The Callisto Protocol
Striking Distance Studios

Despite these touchstones, Callisto doesn’t feel like Dead Space for long. It eventually introduces a snowy alien world and a massive mining operation, but the first third of the game is the most familiar: tight metal corridors dotted with debris and dead bodies, sparking wires, malfunctioning security systems and vents where mutated creatures can hide. This section is set in Black Iron, a prison colony on Jupiter’s moon that’s run by an evil organization with grand plans for the future of humanity. A mysterious plague has swept through the prison, transforming inmates and guards into violent monsters, and smothering some areas in fleshy alien goo.

This is the section I played in preview and it’s easily the best part of the game. The Callisto Protocol steadily introduces enemies, abilities, weapons and beautiful, mazelike environments – until, eventually, the game collapses under the weight of its own mechanics.

The Callisto Protocol
Striking Distance Studios

Dodging is a core aspect of Callisto, and this is the move that disappointed me most clearly and most often. There’s no dodge button; you hold left or right before an enemy hits you, and then hold the opposite direction if there’s another attack incoming. It’s a simple back-and-forth mechanic, but it’s inconsistent, especially when surrounded by multiple enemies. Dodges just don’t land sometimes, even when the animation goes through. This is incredibly frustrating when most bosses kill you in one hit. It’s not only dodging, either: Vaulting over short walls doesn’t always work on the first tap, and this seems to be an issue with an overly sensitive camera.

Other basic mechanics, like melee attacks, firing a gun or swapping weapons, are often too sluggish to be effective, or they simply don’t happen, or their timing is variable for no discernable reason at all. This isn’t every time, but it’s enough to destroy the rhythm of the game. Callisto quickly abandons its sci-fi horror foundation and tries to become an action experience with horde rushes and boss fights against overly powerful enemies, but imprecise mechanics drag the whole thing down.

The Callisto Protocol

The first weapon players get is an electro-charged baton. Striking Distance has been clear that Callisto is supposed to be a melee-heavy experience, with “about half” of its combat based on baton-swinging, though there’s just one such weapon in the game. The baton is upgradable, as are the five guns that the protagonist picks up over time. There’s also the GRP glove, which unlocks telekinesis abilities. The GRP ability is exceedingly useful (and fun!), allowing players to throw projectiles and lob enemies into environmental hazards like fans, spike walls and rotating motors, securing an instant kill in the process. However, the gravity glove doesn’t have a ton of battery and it recharges slowly, even when maxed out at the upgrade station. There are also some enemies that simply can’t be picked up with this ability, and the only way to discern which is to give it a try during a fight.

Now, if five guns sounds like a lot for a game that’s designed to emphasize close-combat melee, that’s because it is. I have myriad issues with Callisto’s gun-management system, starting with the fact that there are too many firearms in the first place. The game’s main battle mechanic revolves around securing melee combos until a reticle locks onto the enemy, allowing players to get in a few quick shots with a gun. At least, that’s the idea. In practice, the reticle system is inconsistent, at times lingering on an enemy and other times disappearing in a flash, offering no time to actually shoot. This combo simply doesn’t feel powerful, even when the extra shots actually connect.

There’s also no quick way to see how much ammo your weapon has before shooting – there’s no HUD in this game, so no persistent ammo or loadout indicators – and swapping among weapons is enraging. Pressing left on the D-pad transitions between two guns only, so even if you have five weapons in your inventory, you won’t find them no matter how many times you spam the swap button. Pressing right pulls up a mini gun menu with your full arsenal, but this is difficult to parse. Small handguns can only be swapped for small handguns, and large for large, though there’s no clear distinction between the two types in the pop-up menu. It’s difficult to manage this system in moments of quiet, and nearly impossible in the middle of combat. Too often I found myself smashing the left button, uselessly swapping between two guns with zero ammo and frustrated that I couldn’t access my additional weapons.

In the middle of fights with multiple enemies, the reticle and ammo guessing game is often lethal, and it’s an exceedingly annoying way to die.

Maybe this is all by design. Maybe by making the gun system annoying as hell, developers thought it would drive players to rely on melee moves. But then why make shooting a core part of the melee experience, and why offer so many damn guns, each with a unique ammo type? An unreliable lock-on system actively discourages close-quarters fighting, there are ammo drops all over the place, and there’s nothing to indicate when a basic melee attack is actually the most powerful move in your arsenal. Not to mention, dodging is dodgy as hell. This turns some boss and horde battles into frustrating, drawn-out sequences with dozens of death screens, until you randomly use a basic melee attack at the right moment and the fight starts progressing at speed.

The Callisto Protocol
Striking Distance Studios

In the end, it feels like the game provides resources it doesn’t actually want you to use, and then punishes you for using them. Melee combat isn’t smooth or powerful enough to emerge as the obvious solution in any situation. Striking Distance may have been clear that Callisto is a melee experience, but the game itself does not.

The main ideas here could have worked, if only there were a hint of on-screen feedback. Callisto doesn’t have a HUD – just like Dead Space – and it eschews common video game features like glowing weak points (at least until the literal last fight) and persistent on-screen text. This is ostensibly with the goal of creating an immersive experience, but instead the lack of information pulled me out of the flow more than anything else. My tip is to max out the GRP glove and focus on environmental kills – and when in doubt, try a basic melee attack.

The Callisto Protocol

The biggest tragedy of The Callisto Protocol is the fact that it’s just not scary. There are some deliciously gruesome death scenes and moments of high tension – I particularly enjoyed the stealth moments – but these are overshadowed by rage-inducing gameplay issues. Its story beats are generic and so is the protagonist (played by Josh Duhamel), while the setting feels like a 1980s Hollywood vision of sci-fi dystopia, with a splash of Resident Evil’s monster design and The Last of Us’ clicky audio cues. This isn’t to say that generic ideas are automatically bad: All of these references could have easily coalesced into an engaging, even scary, game – if only the actual mechanics were functional.

But please, remember: The Callisto Protocol is beautiful. I emerged from multiple annoying boss fights frustrated and filled with ick, only to step into the next environment and go, “Wow, that’s pretty.” It’s just not that scary – or enjoyable.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 5:00 am

Tesla finally delivers its first production Semi

Five years after CEO Elon Musk officially unveiled his Semi, Tesla’s electrified tractor trailer, the company delivered its first official production vehicle to Pepsi on Thursday during its "Semi Delivery Event" held at Tesla's Nevada Gigafactory. The beverage maker has ordered 100 of the vehicles in total.

First shown off in 2017, the Tesla Semi originally was set to retail for $150,000 and $180,000 for the 300- and 500-mile versions, respectively. Those prices are significantly higher than the $60k a standard diesel cab runs but Tesla estimates that its vehicles can operate 20 percent more efficiently (2kWh per mile, Musk revealed Thursday), and save up to $250,000 over the million-mile life of the Semi.

Tesla Semi driving 500 miles, fully loaded, on a single charge pic.twitter.com/iZzomLcwZF

— Tesla (@Tesla) December 2, 2022

Each rig is “designed like a bullet,” Musk said at the vehicle’s unveiling, and would come equipped with a massive 1MW battery pack. This reportedly offers a 20-second 0-60, which is impressive given that these vehicles are towing up to 80,000 pounds at a time, and a spent-to-80 percent charge time of just 30 minutes. The Semis are also outfitted with Enhanced Autopilot capabilities, as well as jackknife-mitigation systems, blind-spot sensors and data-logging for fleet management.

As reservations opened in 2017, Musk said at the time, deliveries would begin two short years later, in 2019. By April 2020, Tesla had officially pushed that delivery date back to 2021, citing production delays and supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, just two months after that, in May of 2020, Musk sent a company-wide email reading, “It’s time to go all out and bring the Tesla Semi to volume production. It’s been in limited production so far, which has allowed us to improve many aspects of the design,” as seen by CNBC. In the same email he confirmed that production would take place in Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.

Cut to July, 2021, and the new delivery date has been pushed again, this time to 2022, citing both the ongoing global processor shortage and its own pandemic-limited battery production capability for the new 4680 style cells as contributing factors.

“We believe we remain on track to build our first Model Y vehicles in Berlin and Austin in 2021,” Musk said during the company’s Q2, 2021 investor call. “The pace of the respective production ramps will be influenced by the successful introduction of many new product and manufacturing technologies, ongoing supply-chain-related challenges and regional permitting.”

“To better focus on these factories, and due to the limited availability of battery cells and global supply chain challenges, we have shifted the launch of the Semi truck program to 2022,” he continued. Beginning in May of this year, Tesla started actively taking reservations again for a $20,000 deposit. "And first deliveries are now," Musk said on Thursday before welcoming Kirk Tanner, CEO PepsiCo Beverages North America, and Steven Williams, CEO PepsiCo Foods North America, on stage for high fives and handshakes.

Posted on 2 December 2022 | 1:42 am

Ye is no longer buying Parler, the ‘free speech’ social media app

Ye is no longer buying Parler, the controversial social media app that’s billed itself as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter. Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, originally struck a deal with Parlement Technologies in October to buy the company for an undisclosed amount.

That deal is now off, according to the company. “Parlement Technologies has confirmed that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” a spokesperson for Parler said in a statement. “This decision was made in the interest of both parties in mid-November. Parler will continue to pursue future opportunities for growth and the evolution of the platform for our vibrant community.”

Parler will continue to pursue future opportunities for growth and the evolution of the platform for our vibrant community.

— Parler (@parler_app) December 1, 2022

News of the deal imploding comes just hours after Ye praised Nazis and said, “I like Hitler,” during an appearance on Alex Jones’ podcast. A spokesperson for Parler didn't comment on whether these statements played a role in the decision to terminate the acquisition, but cited "Ye’s recent and ongoing business difficulties" as a reason for the deal falling through.

Ye had first announced he would buy Parler after he was suspended from Twitter following a series of antisemitic tweets. (Twitter CEO Elon Musk later welcomed him back to the platform.) At the time, Parlement technologies CEO George Farmer said that "the proposed acquisition will assure Parler a future role in creating an uncancelable ecosystem where all voices are welcome.”

Update 12/1 3:10 PM PT: Added additional info from a Parler spokesperson.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 10:00 pm

Facebook failed to stop test ads from threatening midterm election workers

Meta's election integrity efforts on Facebook may not have been as robust as claimed. Researchers at New York University's Cybersecurity for Democracy and the watchdog Global Witness have revealed that Facebook's automatic moderation system approved 15 out of 20 test ads threatening election workers ahead of last month's US midterms. The experiments were based on real threats and used "clear" language that was potentially easy to catch. In some cases, the social network even allowed ads after the wrong changes were made — the research team just had to remove profanity and fix spelling to get past initial rejections.

The investigators also tested TikTok and YouTube. Both services stopped all threats and banned the test accounts. In an earlier experiment before Brazil's election, Facebook and YouTube allowed all election misinformation sent during an initial pass, although Facebook rejected up to 50 percent in follow-up submissions.

In a statement to Engadget, a spokesperson said the ads were a "small sample" that didn't represent what users saw on platforms like Facebook. The company maintained that its ability to counter election threats "exceeds" that of rivals, but only backed the claim by pointing to quotes that illustrated the amount of resources committed to stopping violent threats, not the effectiveness of those resources.

The ads wouldn't have done damage, as the experimenters had the power to pull them before they went live. Still, the incident highlights the limitations of Meta's partial dependence on AI moderation to fight misinformation and hate speech. While the system helps Meta's human moderators cope with large amounts of content, it also risks greenlighting ads that might not be caught until they're visible to the public. That could not only let threats flourish, but invite fines from the UK and other countries that plan to penalize companies which don't quickly remove extremist content.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 9:50 pm

Epic Games’ app that turns photos into 3D models now available on iOS

Epic Games released RealityScan for iOS today. The free app, previously available in a closed beta, lets anyone scan real-world objects with their phone and turn them into high-fidelity 3D models.

The app is the fruit of Epic’s purchase of Capturing Reality, a company specializing in photogrammetry software. Like the company’s desktop software, RealityScan combines 2D images to make seamless 3D assets for games and other virtual environments. The idea is to enable game developers and other creatives to scan real-world objects at any time and any place for their projects. (If the metaverse ever takes off, you can imagine tools like this becoming essential.)

The scanning process begins with signing into your Epic Games account and taking at least 20 photos of an object from all sides. As you move your phone around, a real-time quality map shows how well you’ve covered it: green denotes well-covered areas, yellow could use more attention and red needs the most additional photos. It visualizes the places from which you’ve snapped each picture as something akin to little Polaroids floating around your item.

Scanning a tree stump with Epic Games' RealityScan iPhone app
Epic Games

The app uploads and automatically aligns the images in the cloud as you take the photos. You can preview the model through the camera view and switch between the quality map and an in-progress, full-color render. When you want to crop it, it pops up 3D handles for you to drag around, ensuring it captures only the item, not the floor beneath it or background objects.

The process works best with simple items captured in even, indirect lighting (reflective or wet surfaces won’t capture well). It also appears to work best with larger objects, as my attempt to capture a small Mr. T action figure resulted in something that looks more like a pointillistic painting than a usable model.

Once you’re happy with the capture, you can export it to Sketchfab (a 3D asset platform Epic bought last year), where you can use it for 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality projects. Optionally, if you’ve captured something unique, you could try to sell your 3D model. Game developers needing a specific item for a virtual environment are the most logical audience here.

RealityScan is available today as a free download for iOS and iPadOS on the App Store. Earlier this year, Epic said an Android version would arrive later in the year, although the company is running short on time to meet that deadline.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 9:35 pm

Cadillac says its new hybrid race car is almost ready for 24 Hours of Daytona

Cadillac Racing says its first hybrid race car is almost ready for the 24 Hours of Daytona event in January after passing critical testing and development milestones. Since July, the V-LMDh has gone through nearly 12,000 miles (19,000 km) of on-track testing, including a 24-hour test at Sebring International Raceway.

Cadillac collected data on nighttime operation and durability on the bumpy 3.7-mile circuit. Program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser claimed Sebring was the perfect testing ground for the V-LMDh ahead of its competitive debut at Daytona. “To complete that endurance test was extra motivation for our team and provided a sense of accomplishment,” Klauser said in a statement. “We still have a lot to do in a short time, but we are at the point where we are fine-tuning many things.”

The car is also slated to take part in the 24-hour race at Le Mans in June. Cadillac plans to run it in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship. A final test will take place next week at Daytona as part of mandatory evaluations for all manufacturers intending to take part in the IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype class. Cadillac Racing will reveal the final competition version of the three V-LMDh race cars, including liveries (and hopefully a new name), in mid-January.

Update 9:47AM ET: The V-LMDh is a hybrid race car, not an electric one as previously stated.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 9:04 pm

Discord server owners in the US can now create their own subscriptions

After a year of testing, Discord is ready to let more creators offer subscriptions. The community platform has enabled Server Subscriptions for all eligible server owners in the US. Your favorite streamer or social media star can now offer exclusive content and features at multiple price tiers they set themselves. You might get bonus videos, early access to merch or voting rights for influential polls, for instance.

Discord stresses that creators will get 90 percent of their subscription fee. They can also use a newly launched promo webpage feature to promote their paid options. Any server owner qualifies as long as they're based in the US, agrees to policies and doesn't have any "recent" violations.

The long testing period reflects Discord's caution around launching Server Subscriptions. As company marketing manager Jesse Wofford told Engadget last year, the feature is meant to allow sustainable businesses on the platform — theoretically, a creator can generate meaningful profit (even if it's purely supplemental) from their Discord community.

Whether or not this represents a good value may depend on the services a creator is already using to charge for Discord access. Patreon asks for as little as 5 percent of monthly income before payment processing, but membership tiers and some other perks aren't available until a creator gives up 8 or 12 percent. Moreover, server owners still have to split their attention between two services — Discord's move potentially simplifies subscriptions.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 8:19 pm

Summer Game Fest's first in-person show will take place on June 8th

Geoff Keighley and his team might be focused on The Game Awards, but they're also looking ahead to their next gaming event. The fourth edition of Summer Game Fest's live kickoff show, which will have a live audience for the first time, will take place on June 8th. 

Keighley was involved with E3 for 25 years, though he backed out in early 2020 (before the Entertainment Software Association canceled that year's edition). Three years later, the two events are set to go toe-to-toe.

☀️SAVE THE DATE☀️

June 8, 2023

Join us online or in person for SGF '23@SummerGameFest kicks off with a spectacular LIVE showcase event from the 6,000-seat @YouTubeTheater in Los Angeles

Stay tuned for more details & public ticket sales! pic.twitter.com/B455Y6AHe8

— Summer Game Fest - Returns June 2023 (@summergamefest) December 1, 2022

The long-running expo hasn't held an in-person event since 2019. The 2020 and 2022 editions of E3 were called off, though it went ahead as an online-only event in 2021. E3's partner showcases start on June 11th with the in-person component of the show (which PAX operator ReedPop will run) slated for June 13th to 16th.

The Summer Game Fest showcase will take place at the 6,000-capacity YouTube Theater, a 20-minute drive from E3's Los Angeles Convention Center home base. As ever, the former will feature world premieres, gameplay demos and other announcements. Unless you want to attend Summer Game Fest in person, you won't need to buy a ticket as you can watch the event live on the likes of YouTube and Twitch. It's not yet clear if publishers and studios will offer hands-on demos, as is the case at E3.

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 7:32 pm

Southern hemisphere’s largest radio telescope joins search for extraterrestrial tech

The largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere has joined the search for technosignatures, signals that indicate the presence of technology developed by extraterrestrial intelligence. A new instrument utilized by the MeerKAT radio telescope, which is in a remote region of South Africa, will increase the number of targets that Breakthrough Listen can observe by a factor of 1,000.

A team of engineers and astronomers involved with Listen, an initiative that's seeking signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, spent three years working on the instrument, which is said to be the most powerful equipment ever deployed to aid the search for technosignatures. The instrument is integrated with MeerKAT's control and monitoring systems.

Listen is already employing the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, the Parkes Telescope in Australia and others in its hunt for technosignatures. What's different about MeerKAT is that there's no need to physically move its antennas. Its 64 dishes can monitor an area of the sky 50 times larger than what GBT can view at once.

“Such a large field of view typically contains many stars that are interesting technosignature targets," Listen principal investigator Dr. Andrew Siemion said in a statement. "Our new supercomputer enables us to combine signals from the 64 dishes to get high resolution scans of these targets with excellent sensitivity, all without impacting the research of other astronomers who are using the array.”

Along with being able to monitor a larger area of the sky at a given time, the ability to scan 64 objects at once will help Listen to detect and dismiss interfering signals from spacecraft launched by humans, such as satellites. One of the first targets that the new instrument will observe is Alpha Centauri. In 2020, Listen detected an odd radio signal coming from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun and a member of the Alpha Centauri system.

“It will take us just two years to search over one million nearby stars," Listen project scientist Dr. Cherry Ng said. "MeerKAT will provide us with the ability to detect a transmitter akin to Earth’s brightest radio beacons out to a distance of 250 light years in our routine observing mode.”

Posted on 1 December 2022 | 6:30 pm