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‘Virtual Rick-ality’ is a VR treat for ‘Rick and Morty’ fans

Rick and Morty is one of the funniest shows on television — and it’s also one of the weirdest. Co-created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon (Community), the series is like a demented spin on the Doc Brown/Marty McFly relationship from Back to the Future. Rick Sanchez is a dimension-hopping alcoholic genius who’s the grandfather to Morty, a nebbish kid who’s always in over his head. Comedy! While I was initially worried that the show’s first VR experience, Virtual Rick-ality, might not live up to the series’ wildly inventive attitude, it didn’t waste much time proving me wrong.

The game puts you in the role of a lowly Morty clone who’s initially created just to do Rick’s dirty laundry. That menial task serves as a cheeky way to learn how to interact with the environment, a loving recreation of Rick’s garage lab. You’ll notice plenty of callbacks to jokes from the show, but you won’t get much of a chance to explore them at first. For the task at hand, all you need to do is throw the dirty laundry into the washer, add some detergent, and you’re done. If you start fumbling and take too long, Rick and the actual Morty won’t waste any time berating you.

Eventually you’re tasked with retrieving an intergalactic delivery using a clone of Mr. Meseeks — a character that’s originally introduced in the show, but serves a very different purpose here. It exists purely to mimic all of your movement in VR, and it comes out of a device resembling a Poke Ball from Pokemon. Since you can throw that device anywhere, the clone ends up being a smart way to interact with objects outside of your virtual play space. And, after playing plenty of VR games, its ability to mimic your movements feels very original.

Throughout Virtual Rick-ality, you’ll notice plenty of mechanical similarities to the popular VR title Job Simulator. Both games were developed by Owlchemy labs, after all. Instead of flipping burgers, you’re given jobs befitting the weird world of Rick and Morty. The mere act of recharging a battery becomes an exhausting battle to turn dials, flip switches and pull levers. It’s a bit infuriating at first (especially if your VR setup has tracking hiccups), but eventually I got into the flow of the puzzle.

I played the game using an Oculus Rift with Touch Controllers, and it was a mostly pleasant experience. I could only play it in a small area, but Vive users can also play it with room-scale tracking, which gives you a bit more freedom to walk around the virtual environments. Since you’re spending much of the time teleporting around and grabbing objects, Virtual Rick-ality isn’t very intense. Instead, it’s more focused on the little details, like recreating the interface for Rick’s computer, or developing a complex puzzle to fix Rick’s spaceship.


Adult Swim/Owlchemy Labs

Audio cassettes scattered throughout the world also hide short sketches between Rick and Morty, which are particularly entertaining if you’re a fan of Roiland’s voice work (he portrays both characters). And speaking of voice actors, you’ll also hear from the actors playing Morty’s sister Summer (Spencer Smith) and father (Chris Parnell). Together with a strong script, I often felt like I was actually living through an episode of the series, drunken profanity and all.

The one downside of Virtual Rick-ality? It’s clearly a game made for fans, which might make some players feel left out. Why is Rick such an abusive alcoholic? What’s the deal with al the intergalactic junk in the garage? The game doesn’t spend any time filling in the blanks. Newcomers should check out a few episodes of the show to make sure its humor gels with you. For everyone else, Virtual Rick-ality is the perfect way to hold you over until Rick and Morty’s third season kicks off this summer.


Uber might have to pay £2 million to operate in London

Transport for London (TfL) is proposing licence fee changes that would foot Uber with a £2 million bill. The regulator opened a consultation today that would change the current two tier-system, “small” and “standard,” to a more expensive five-level structure. Right now, private hire operators with two vehicles or less pay £1,488 for a five-year licence, while those with three or more pay £2,826. Under the new system, companies with more than 1,000 vehicles would fall into the highest category and have to choose from one of two payment structures: £33,304 per year, plus £14 per registered vehicle, or £166,518, plus £68 per vehicle for a five-year licence.

Uber has more than 30,000 drivers in the capital, so would almost certainly fall into this tier. If we take 30,000 as gospel, that would mean a fee of £453,304 per year, or £2.2 million for a five-year licence.

TfL says the new structure is a better reflection of the industry and the costs, including licensing and compliance, that it accrues while managing minicab operators. As the Evening Standard notes, TfL is in the midst of a hiring spree that will take its compliance team to 300 this summer. That figure is the largest in mayoral history and reflects the growth in ride-hailing, as well as the numbers needed to curb illegal activity.

“Given the emergence of large operators in recent years with, in a few cases, many thousands of drivers/vehicles working for them, it is clear that the current structure does not now, in any way, reflect the true cost of compliance activity for larger operators,” TfL said in its consultation. “To illustrate the scale of this discrepancy, the largest operator [note: this is probably Uber] currently pays the equivalent of just £565 per annum (over five years) for a licence which costs over £500,000 per annum to enforce.”

Uber declined to comment.

Source: Transport for London


HBO adapting Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic ‘Fahrenheit 451’

We’re already living in a dystopian reality, so it’s not surprising that our entertainment reflects that. Following Hulu’s release of The Handmaid’s Tale, showing a dark US theocratic future, HBO is adapting one of the original dystopian classics, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, according to Variety. The project is in development, but HBO is pushing it toward production with Michael B. Jordan (who also popped up in Matrix relaunch rumors) and Michael Shannon in starring roles.

The book portrays a future where books are outlawed and “Firemen” like Guy Montag (Jordan) and his boss Captain Beatty (Shannon) are charged with setting them ablaze — the title refers to the temperature at which paper supposedly catches fire. However, when Montag meets a free-thinking new neighbor, Clarisse, he starts to question the course of his life.

Bradbury published the novel back in 1953, during a time when book burning was actually a thing in the US. It became an instant classic as a meditation on censorship and freedom of expression, much as Orwell’s 1984 is synonymous with pervasive government surveillance. The only adaptation is French director François Truffaut’s 1966 adaption, a film that did become a cult hit but isn’t exactly widely known.

It’s a bit surprising that Fahrenheit 451, one of the best-known and liveliest tales of a potentially bleak future, has yet to be adapted since then. With HBO and Jordan behind it (as star and executive producer), there’s a solid chance we’ll finally see it come to life again and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Source: Variety


Google Home can now recognize more than one person

Google’s Home device is late to the domestic AI assistant game, but it can do one trick that Alexa can’t right now: Tell family members apart just by their voices. Up to six people can link their Google accounts to one Home device, then train Google’s Assistant to recognize their voices. Once that’s done, it’ll be able to distinguish you from your spouse or other family members and give you pertinent info, like your schedule or traffic on your usual route.

As it stands, the lack of multi-user support is a nuisance. While Home can still give everyone general information and trivia via the Knowledge Graph (and more erratic “featured snippets”), it can only create appointments and do other user-specific stuff for one designated Google account. Recently, however, it started displaying a message saying “multiple users are supported,” a clue that a change was in the offing.

To set it up, update the Google Home app on your smartphone (iOS or Android), then look for a card that says “multi-user is available” — if you don’t see it, click the top right icon to see your connected devices, as shown in the GIF above. Once you see Google Home, just click on “link your account,” and you’re ready to start training it.

After you say “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” twice each, the AI will store those phrases and use them to verify your voice characteristics in the future. “This comparison takes place only in your device, in a matter of milliseconds,” Google explains, to clear up any worries you may have about security or speed.

As shown in the video below, after a man asks about his day, Google Home lets him know that traffic is bad on his route. When his partner (who has a similar voice) asks the same question, it gives him separate, account-specific information about his schedule.

That’s something Alexa can’t do, though Amazon is reportedly working on its own multi-user feature, according to a leak from back in February. Until it gets that going, Google can finally claim some bragging rights — but it still has a lot of catching up to do.

Source: Google


Apple Music’s next exclusive is a Clive Davis documentary

Apple Music’s next documentary focuses on music industry legend Clive Davis. Last night at the annual Tribeca Film Festival, it was announced that Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives would be exclusive to Apple’s music-streaming service. That report comes via Deadline. While Davis’ name might be unfamiliar, his influence has been felt throughout the music industry for some 50 years. Davis is responsible for signing Bruce Springsteen; Carlos Santana (above); Earth, Wind & Fire and Alicia Keys in addition to cofounding Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records among many, many other accomplishments. For more on his career, be sure to check out New York Times’ recent interview with Davis.

This comes after the music service snagging the rights to 808: The Movie and Taylor Swift’s 1989 concert movie. Thankfully this sounds like it’ll hew closer to those than Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. Spotify recently revealed its latest exclusive, basically Carpool Karaoke but for hip-hop, and has a documentary about Metallica’ early years under its belt, too, so there’s some competition in the space. Hey, at least these exclusives are music adjacent and not your favorite artist’s latest records being siloed of to a service you don’t subscribe to, right?

Via: The Verge

Source: Deadline


Crackle signs up 50 Cent for two original series

Perennial Engadget CES interview Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has found new pastures for his foray into movies. Instead of just making direct-to-video projects with Val Kilmer and Bruce Willis, his G-Unit Film and Television is working on a few shows with Sony’s ad-supported streaming service Crackle. The Oath (no, not the Verizon/Yahoo amalgam) is a scripted series focusing on gang subcultures while RPM is about a used-car salesman who’s a getaway driver by night. Variety reports that those are working titles, but there’s little else to share at this point.

With Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee moving to Netflix, Crackle is looking to fill the gaps Jerry Seinfeld left in its lineup. The service is also working on original videos as a partnership with Mashable and A.V. Club publisher Fusion Media Group. But even then, whether or not the new programming can set Crackle apart from other services with seemingly endless pockets is up in the air, despite how many big names may be involved. If it doesn’t end up working out for 50, he always his headphone empire to fall back on. As for Crackle, the Dead Rising universe is ripe for more stories.

Via: Tubefilter

Source: Variety


Elago’s New M4 Stand Turns Your iPhone 7, 6s, or 6 Into The Original Macintosh

Back in January, accessory maker Elago launched the W3 Charging Stand for Apple Watch, which housed Apple’s modern wearable within a silicone shell that looked just like the Macintosh computer from 1984. This week, Elago is launching another nostalgic accessory, this time allowing users to turn their iPhone 7, 6s, or 6 into an old Mac.

Called the M4 Stand for iPhone, the charging stand functions exactly like the Apple Watch version: users slide their iPhone into the side of the silicone housing, and there’s a pass-through rail underneath the stand for Lightning cable organization. In terms of size, the M4 Stand is about 5.8 inches long, 4.3 inches wide, and 5 inches tall.

View your iPhone through a blast from the past. Your iPhone fits perfectly into the stand and transforms it into an old Apple monitor.

The M4 Stand is made with scratch-free silicone to prevent damage to your iPhone and cable; the material’s unique properties allow the stand to feel soft to the touch and provide weight to plant your stand on any flat surface.

The M4 isn’t compatible with any Plus versions of the iPhone, nor will it work with an iPhone that’s in any sort of protective case. Elago did mention, however, that the company’s line of “Slim Fit” cases are compatible with the M4 Stand.

The M4 Stand for iPhone is available in Black and Classic White on Elago’s website for $29.49. Elago is also selling both the Black and Classic White M4 Stand on Amazon at a slightly higher price of $29.99.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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Apple Music Introduces ‘Up Next’ Feature to Promote New Artists

On its Apple Music Twitter account, Apple today announced a new “Up Next” feature for Apple Music, which is designed to promote “Music’s Next Generation,” highlighting a new artists each month.

For April, Apple is partnering with singer and rapper 6LACK for a range of projects to promote his latest album, FREE 6LACK.

The new “Up Next” Apple Music section in iTunes features a documentary that delves into 6LACK’s upbringing, the Free 6LACK album, a live performance, an interview with Zane Lowe, and several Apple Music playlists.

Both Beats 1 DJ Zane Lowe and 6LACK will also be on the Late Late Show with James Corden on April 20, presumably to talk about the new project and 6LACK’s work.

.@zanelowe and @6LACK will be on @latelateshow with @JKCorden tonight! Watch on @CBS at 12:37AM ET/PT. #UpNext

— Beats 1 (@Beats1) April 20, 2017

Apple has done similar wide-ranging promotions for major album releases for well-known artists in the past, but its new Up Next feature gives the company a way to highlight and promote lesser-known artists in a major way.

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Apple and Nike Launch New Neutral-Toned ‘Apple Watch NikeLab’

Nike today announced that it has teamed up with Apple to create a new version of the Apple Watch Nike+, which pairs a Space Gray Apple Watch Series 2 aluminum case with a black and cream Nike band.

Called the Apple Watch NikeLab, the new device is limited edition and designed to be “the ultimate style companion” for those who love to run.

The limited edition, neutral-toned Apple Watch NikeLab maintains the beloved features of its predecessor: deep integration with the Nike+ Run Club app, exclusive Siri commands, GPS, a two-times-brighter display and water resistance to 50 meters*, all made possible by a powerful dual-core processor and watchOS 3. ​

Apple Watch NikeLab will be available starting on April 27 from, at NikeLab locations, and at the Apple Tokyo pop-up store at the Isetan department store. It will not be sold in Apple Stores or from the Apple website, a first for an Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch NikeLab will likely be priced at $369 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm model, the same price as the rest of the Apple Watch Nike+ lineup.

Apple and Nike first teamed up in September of 2016 for the Nike+ Apple Watch that launched alongside Apple’s own set of Series 2 Apple Watch devices. Apple offers two Apple Watch Nike+ models in Silver and Space Gray aluminum along with standalone Apple Watch Nike+ bands.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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AI app knows when couples are fighting, may someday predict (and prevent) conflict

Why it matters to you

By detecting conflict, AI may someday be able to predict — and prevent — bickering between couples.

Bickering isn’t abnormal, but it’s (usually) unproductive, so most people want to avoid petty fights with their partner if possible. Some day soon a smartphone app may help.

Researchers at the University of California (USC), Los Angeles, have used an artificial intelligence system to analyze language patterns and physiological signs in order to detect conflict in couples. The work, which the team published in the journal IEEE Computer, demonstrates the first time such monitoring has been shown to work outside of a psychology lab.

Led by USC’s Adela Timmons, the researchers used smartphones and wearables on 34 couples in the comfort of their homes. The devices were equipped with machine learning algorithms that could pick up on patterns in speech and physiology, such as an increased heart rate and skin conductance level, two signs that previous studies have shown to be associated with conflict. The red flag language would be all too familiar to anyone who has ever argued with a significant other, including more use of words like “you,” “always,” and “never.”

During the day-long trial, a sensor on each partner’s chest measured heart rate, a wrist band measured skin conductance level (think, electrical activity), and a smartphone collected audio recordings while tracking the participants by GPS. The smartphone would ask the couples to confirm if a conflict had occurred when one was detected — which surely made things worse but, hey, it’s for science.

All things considered, the system was able to accurately detect conflict 79.3 percent of the time. With language cues alone, the accuracy rate was a less impressive 62.3 percent. However, the system’s ability to detect conflict doesn’t yet amount to predicting — and even preventing — altercations. Timmons plans to investigate that next.

“Our next steps are to predict conflict before it occurs and to develop adaptive, real-time intervention systems,” Timmons told Digital Trends. “This might involve sending warnings or alerts that conflict is likely, prompting relaxation exercises or breaks, or helping couples re-initiate positive contact or reflect about what happened after an argument occurs.”

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