Category: author_name|Igor Bonifacic

Auto Added by WPeMatico

Quest headset owners can capture VR gameplay using their phones

Meta’s Reality Labs unit is rolling out one last major software update for the Quest and Quest 2 before the end of the year. And it’s one you’ll want to download as soon as you can because it adds some handy features.

One of them allows you to record yourself while inside a game or app. If you own a VR headset, you’ve probably seen videos like the one above where you can see how a game physically plays. Before today, you needed special equipment to capture footage from that mixed reality perspective. With the new update, you can use your phone instead.

Mobile mixed reality camera
Reality Labs

Naturally, the final result isn’t as polished as the above video, but you can still get an idea of how games like Beat Saber play out in the real world. You’ll need an iPhone XS or above with iOS 11 or higher to use the new mobile mixed reality camera. With today’s release, about a dozen games support the feature, including Superhot VR, Pistol Whip and Synth Riders.

The update also includes a number of features Meta said were coming “soon” at its Connect conference in late October. To start, you can now make voice calls through the Messenger app on Quest and Quest 2 headsets. The feature allows you to not only call other Quest users, but you can also dial up your Facebook friends.

Reality Labs app sharing
Reality Labs

Starting today, some games will also allow you to back up your save data to the cloud. The feature may not be immediately available on your headset after downloading the update. That’s because Reality Labs says it’s rolling it out at a slower pace to make sure it works correctly. Additionally, it’s an opt-in feature for developers, so not every game may support it even after it’s broadly available. While not new to the Quest platform, today’s update also removes the experimental tag that had been applied to the multi-user and app sharing features that were introduced at the start of the year.

Lastly, while not directly related to today’s update, in the “coming weeks” Reality Labs plans to introduce new customization options to Horizon Workrooms. To start, you’ll have the option to choose from multiple virtual office environments and the ability to decorate the space with custom posters and your company's logo.

Read more

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will power the next generation of Android flagships

Every December for the last few years, Qualcomm has held an annual event in Hawaii to announce its latest flagship mobile chipset. This year was no different with the company taking the opportunity to unveil the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. That’s right, for the second year in a row, Qualcomm is moving away from the sequential numbering scheme that has defined its processors for years. Just as the Snapdragon 865 gave way to the 888, the company will now replace the 888 with the Gen 1. 

The system-on-a-chip includes Qualcomm’s own X65 5G modem. The company says it’s capable of theoretical download speeds of 10Gbps. That’s one of those specs that’s impressive on paper, but won’t mean much out in the real world since some of the fastest 5G networks can’t deliver speeds greater than 4Gbps in ideal conditions. If you have access to a WiFi 6 or 6E router, the Gen 1 can sustain download speeds of 3.6 Gbps over WiFi.

As with its past flagship chipsets, Qualcomm has put significant effort into improving the camera experience. The Gen 1 features an 18-bit image signal processor. That’s a first for the company, and something it says allows the component to process 4,000 times more data than the 14-bit Spectra ISP found on the Snapdragon 888. Additionally, phones with the Gen 1 will have the ability to capture photos at 3.2 gigapixels per second. In practice, that means the Gen 1 can process data from three 36-megapixel cameras simultaneously without any shutter lag, according to Qualcomm.

In another first for a mobile device, the company says the chipset can record 8K HDR footage at 30 frames per second. Again, that’s not the most practical feature for a phone in 2021 since 4K is the top end for most content. On that note, the Gen 1 supports UHD capture at 120 frames per second and can record slow motion footage at 960 frames per second at 720p. Separate from its Spectra ISP, the Gen 1 includes a always-on image signal processor that can power a camera while consuming very little battery power. It’s a feature that will allow Gen 1-equipped devices to offer always-on face detection for biometric authentication.

The Gen 1 won’t offer greatly improved CPU performance over what was already possible with the Snapdragon 888 Plus. What it does promise is faster performance when it comes to AI-related tasks. That’s thanks to Qualcomm’s new seventh-generation AI engine, which the company says is up to four times faster than its predecessor thanks to more shared memory and a faster tensor accelerator. Gaming performance is another highlight of the Gen 1. According to Qualcomm, its latest Adreno GPU offers 30 percent faster rendering performance while consuming 25 percent less power. Over on the audio front, the Gen 1 includes support for Qualcomm’s recently announced aptX Lossless Bluetooth codec. It can deliver up to CD-quality 16-bit 44.1kHz audio streaming over a wireless connection.

Rounding out the Gen 1’s feature list is a dedicated Trust Management Engine. The Gen 1 is the first mobile chipset to support Google’s Android Ready SE standard out of the box, which means it has the capability to store things like digital car keys and IDs.

With its mix of performance improvements and new features, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 offers an intriguing look at the next generation of Android flagships. Now we have to wait to see what capabilities manufacturers decide to enable in their latest devices. The first Gen 1-equipped phones will arrive later this year, with more expected to come in the first half of 2022.

Separately, Qualcomm announced it’s partnering with Google to bring the company’s Neural Architecture Search platform to its product portfolio. The technology, which will be available first on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, allows companies to create and optimize AI models automatically instead of manually. According to Google, NAS optimize AI models in weeks rather than months.

Read more

Twitch will use machine learning to catch ban-dodging trolls

Twitch is introducing a new machine learning feature to help streamers protect their channels from people attempting to avoid bans. Dubbed "Suspicious User Detection," the tool will automatically flag individuals it suspects may be "likely" or "possible" ban dodgers.

In cases involving the former, Twitch will prevent any messages they send from showing up in chat. It will also identify those individuals for streamers and any mods helping them with their channel. At that point, they can decide if they want to ban that person. By default, possible repeat trolls can send messages in chat, but they too will be flagged by the system. Additionally, Twitch says creators have the option to prevent them from sending any messages in the first place.

Twitch Suspicious User Detection
Twitch

"The tool is powered by a machine learning model that takes a number of signals into account — including, but not limited to, the user's behavior and account characteristics — and compares that data against accounts previously banned from a Creator's channel to assess the likelihood the account is evading a previous channel-level ban," a Twitch spokesperson told Engadget when we asked about the signals the system uses to detect potential offenders.

While Twitch plans to turn on Suspicious User Detection for everyone, the tool won't automatically ban users for streamers. That's by design because it's impossible to create a machine learning tool that is 100 percent accurate in every context. "You're the expert when it comes to your community, and you should make the final call on who can participate," the company said in a blog post. "The tool will learn from the actions you take and the accuracy of its predictions should improve over time as a result."

The introduction of the tool follows a summer in which Twitch struggled to contain a phenomenon called "hate raids." The attacks saw malicious individuals use thousands of bots to spam channels with hateful language. In many cases, they targeted creators from marginalized communities. Hate raids became such a frequent feature of the platform that some creators walked away from Twitch for a day in protest of the company's lack of action.

Read more

New FCC rules could force telephone companies to block robocalls to 911 call centers

Back in 2012, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a special do-not-call registry to protect 911 call centers from robocalls. The system was never implemented in part due to security concerns that came up when the FCC and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started looking into the feasibility of the idea. Specifically, there was a worry that a bad actor could use the registry to flood a call center with automated calls and thereby prevent them from helping people in need.

Fast forward to the present and the FCC says it has a better idea on how to accomplish the goal assigned to it by Congress. On Thursday, the agency proposed new rules that would require telephone companies to block robocalls made to those facilities. As Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel points out, the advantage of this approach is that it would limit access to the do-not-call registry to a select group of verified telephone companies and carriers. And by limiting access to that list, the FCC and FTC can put in place better safeguards to protect it. With today’s decision, the FCC isn’t ready yet to implement that system, but what it does plan to do is collect feedback before moving forward. “We believe this is a promising approach, but we want to get this right,” Rosenworcel said. 

Read more

Clubhouse finally makes audio shareable with 30-second previews of rooms

One week after introducing a new invite system, Clubhouse is introducing a host of new features. The first of those new is Clips, a tool people can use to share previews of public rooms. When creators and hosts enable the feature, you’ll see a new icon that looks like a pair of scissors. Tap it and Clubhouse will capture the last 30 seconds of audio, which you can then share on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, iMessage or WhatsApp. Clubhouse says it’s rolling out Clips in beta to select creators today. In most public and open rooms, you should see the scissors icon there unless the host has gone out of their way to disable the feature.

Sometime in the next few weeks, Clubhouse also plans to introduce a way for people to share archives of past live rooms. The feature is called Replays. As with Clips, it’s something that people will be able to disable if they want. When active, however, it will make past rooms discoverable for as long as a host or creator wants people to find that conversation. Clubhouse says it plans to start rolling out Replays sometime in October.

Rounding things out, Clubhouse is introducing a search tool that allows you to look for specific people, clubs, live rooms and future events. Initially, that functionality will live in the Explore tab for about a week or two before Clubhouse moves it to the hallway sidebar. Last but not least, Android users can look forward to Clubhouse rolling out support for spatial audio. In many ways, the updates Clubhouse announced today address shortcomings that have been in the app for a while. The absence of a way to share audio was a particularly notable omission.  

Read more

Punishing platformer ‘Ghostrunner’ adds accessibility mode

Ghostrunner was one of the best surprises of 2020. It’s a stylish first-person platformer that takes the best elements of Titanfall’s parkour mechanics and adds a cyberpunk twist to the proceedings. It’s also a challenging game that demands precision and purpose from the player. Make a single mistake, and you’ll need to replay a section of a level again. That can get frustrating fast, so developer One More Level is adding a new feature called Assist Mode.

Assist Mode introduces three options you can toggle on and off. You can opt to shorten your character’s ability cooldowns, slow down the game to give you more time to react and play with an extra life to make mistakes less punishing. Accessibility modes are becoming more common in video games, and it’s always good to see another developer find a way to allow more people to enjoy their work.

For experienced players, there’s a new feature called Wave Mode that is essentially Ghostrunner’s take on a roguelike. You’ll need to complete 20 rounds in succession, with each one featuring different enemies — even when you attempt the same one multiple times. Make it all the way to the end, and you’ll earn a fancy new katana for your character.

Both Assist and Wave modes are available today for free on the platforms where you can already buy Ghostrunner. That includes PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, the Epic Games Store and GOG. When the game makes its way to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on September 28th, it will come with those modes included.

Read more

Google adds shipping and return labels to product listings in search and shopping tool

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Google plans to surface the shipping and return policies of stores that list items on its platforms to help consumers quickly find out if they can get free delivery and returns on their purchases. You’ll see the labels appear across both free and paid listings. “Free delivery by Friday, December 24th,” says one of the example annotations the company shared. Merchants will need to meet a list of requirements before they can add the labels to their listings, so you won’t see them on every product.

Shipping and return annotations won’t dramatically change your shopping experience, but they make you decide to jump on a product you would have otherwise glossed over. Google has spent much of the last year adding these types of features to its shopping hubs. At I/O 2021, for example, it showed off a feature inside of Chrome that displayed shopping carts you abandoned before completing a purchase in a new tab.

Read more

Maine bans facial recognition technology from schools and most police work

Maine has passed the strongest statewide law regulating government use of facial recognition to date. The state’s House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of rules that prohibit law enforcement from using the technology unless they have probable cause that an unidentified person in an image committed a serious crime. Once the law goes into effect later this year, it will also limit how police conduct facial ID searches. They won’t have direct access to the tech. Instead, they’ll need to go through the FBI and Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in the few instances where they’re sanctioned to use it.

Additionally, the law affords citizens the right to sue the state if they believe a government agency has used the technology unlawfully. It also prohibits Maine from deploying facial recognition systems in schools, and mandates that both Maine State Police and the BMV will need to maintain public records of search requests from law enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the bill “stands in sharp contrast” to Washington state’s SB 6280, the only other statewide law in the US governing the use of facial recognition. That bill was sponsored and primarily written by a current Microsoft employee. It has also been criticized by privacy advocates for giving police too many opportunities to use the technology for surveillance purposes. 

Read more

Twitch Watch Parties now work on iOS and Android

Following last year’s expansion beyond the US, Twitch users can now access the platform’s "Watch Parties" feature on Android and iOS devices. Watch Parties allow Twitch users to stream content from Amazon Prime Video much like they would a video game. Viewers can follow along with the TV show or movie as it unfolds and take part in chat.

Previously, Watch Parties were only available through Twitch’s web client. As you might imagine, there are some limits in place to prevent people from watching Prime Video content for free. To start, both the person streaming the video and watching it need an active Prime Video subscription to take part. Regional restrictions also apply, so someone can’t stream a TV show or movie that’s not available in their local Prime Video library. But even when you take those restrictions into consideration, there aren’t a lot of features out there that match what Twitch has with Watch Parties. After all, it’s something the company can only offer because it’s owned by Amazon.

Read more

Spotify is reportedly thinking about expanding into ticketed events

Spotify is reportedly “considering” expanding into events, according to The Information. The outlet reports the company could sell tickets for both virtual and live concerts as it looks to diversify its business. However, making money off of ticketed events isn’t necessarily Spotify’s short-term goal. Its more immediate plan is to use them as a way to improve its relationship with artists.

The Information suggests Spotify thinks there’s an opportunity to leverage the data it has to help musicians plan successful concerts in places most promoters avoid. In this way, the company is said to believe it can better show those artists it’s invested in their careers. It would also be a way for it to differentiate its platform from Apple Music.

Spotify has already dabbled in live events. This past spring, the company put on a handful of prerecorded virtual concerts featuring artists like The Black Keys and Leon Bridges. It sold tickets to those shows for $15 each. The Information reports the results of those concerts “validated” Spotify’s thinking on what events could do for it in the future, and it’s been thinking about next steps ever since. Of course, we wouldn't say that makes an expansion is a done deal. Selling tickets to concerts might make a lot of sense for a music streaming platform, but it would still represent a massive business shift for Spotify.    

Read more