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14
Sep

Apple questioned about Face ID security by the US Senate


A lot of people quickly raised concerns about privacy and security the moment Apple revealed iPhone X and its Face ID feature. Edward Snowden, for instance, thinks it normalizes face scanning, “a tech certain to be abused.” Now, US Senator Al Franken is pressing the tech titan for answers, penning a letter addressed to Apple chief Tim Cook with a list of questions concerning the technology’s “eventual uses that may not be contemplated by” its customers.

While Cupertino already said during its keynote that Face ID details will be saved on the phone itself, Franken wants to know whether it’s currently possible for Apple or a third party to access (and then save) that data either remotely or through physical access to one’s iPhone. He wants to know all the steps Apple has taken to ensure the tech can’t be fooled by masks and photographs. He’s asking Apple where it got the one billion face images the company used to train the Face ID algorithm, and he wants assurance that Apple won’t use customers’ faceprints for any other purpose.

More importantly, Franken wants to know how Apple plans to respond to law enforcement requests demanding Face ID data. A valid question, since it’s no secret that Apple, Google and other tech titans get a lot of government requests for info. Apple even waged war against the Department of Justice last year when it refused to unlock the iPhone 5C that belonged to San Bernardino shooter. In the end, the tech giant’s input wasn’t even needed: the FBI gave up on persuading Cupertino and bought a tool to unlock the device from a third party provider for nearly a million.

In addition to questions about security, Franken is asking Apple what steps it took to make sure “its system was trained on a diverse set of faces, in terms of race, gender and age.” As you know, facial recognition systems still aren’t perfect and frequently have issues recognizing the faces of POC. Franken hopes to get answers to all those questions by October 13th, though it’s up to Apple to decide whether to write back.

Via: 9to5mac, Recode

Source: Senator Al Franken

14
Sep

Xbox One will soon capture your epic plays in full HD


Along with its other upgrades, the souped-up Xbox One X will come with 4K recording from the get go. Meanwhile, owners of Microsoft’s standard console are still dealing with 720p resolution at 30 FPS. Not to mention the added insult of seeing their beloved gaming machine get discontinued. That’s enough to make even the most loyal of gamers feel left out. But, there is some good news. The standard Xbox One’s Game DVR is getting a bump in resolution to 1080p. Plus, you’ll be able to save your recordings directly to an external hard drive. That way, you can save precious storage on your console (which is especially useful if you have the 500GB version). For now, the upgrade is limited to Alpha Insiders. Everyone else can expect to get a taste later this year.

If you happen to be on the upper echelon of the Xbox Insiders program, you’ll get 1080p captures by default as soon as you download the update. Additionally, Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra confirmed on Twitter that you’ll be able to record at the new resolution for up to an hour. That’s if you have the storage for it, of course. Previously, external hard drives could only be used to save games and apps, which meant captures would hog up space on your console. The unexpected update is a nice touch that should make regular Xbox One owners feel a bit more wanted.

Hour. @MrBlackMagik right?

— Mike Ybarra (@XboxQwik) September 14, 2017

Source: Xbox (forums)

14
Sep

What we’re playing: ‘Mario + Rabbids,’ ‘Overwatch’ and ‘Splatoon 2’


Welcome back to Gaming IRL, a monthly segment where several editors talk about what they’ve been playing in their downtime. This month, it all falls apart, as two of us admit to basically playing the same games non-stop all year. Some are still doing their jobs though, and to kick us off, UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith talks about Ubisoft’s surprisingly good Mario + Rabbids game.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

Mario + Rabbids is a game of two parts. First the X-com strategic battles, which form the main meat of the game. Ubisoft has pitched the learning curve perfectly, adding new characters, with different weapons and skills, as the game progresses. Spoiler though: No Yoshi until the final chapter? Yeesh.

Skills (and weapon effects) start to playfully interact with each other by the middle of the game, and I was soon bouncing enemies into the path of Mario, whose special ability allows him to gun down any baddie that comes into his range. If Mario has the sticky honey ability on his gun, that bad guy would then be stuck fast, making easy work for whoever else I had on the field. There’s a real sense of pleasure of seeing your intricate battle plans come together. Each level has a goal (destroy all enemies, get to this area), and you’re rated only by the survival rate of your three fighters, and the number of turns it took to fulfil said goal. I like this way of ranking: It’s not fussy, nor did these goals ever seem unachievable.

When my battle machinations came together, and I finished a level in two, not six turns, I felt pretty darn proud of myself. (Yes, I know this is meant to be an entry-level turn-based strategy game, but it’s nice to feel successful, okay?)

The other half isn’t so good. There’s a lot of laborious block shifting puzzles that never really seem all that clever. They’re a pain the first time around, but when you’re searching old levels for collectibles, challenges and secret chapters, having to go through them all over again seems plain cruel. It’s fortunate, then, that the main thrust of the game is in the battles. Enjoy the smart fighting dynamics, the expertly blended Mario / Rabbids world, and maybe some of the toilet humor. Just force your way through those between-match puzzles, and never look back.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Aaron Souppouris

Aaron Souppouris
Features Editor

It’s been seven months since Nintendo released Fire Emblem Heroes, and I think I’ve played it every day since. I fell in love with the series it’s based on back on the Game Boy Advance, and Intelligent Systems (its developer since the 1990 original) did a fantastic job of adapting things for mobile without over-simplifying the core mechanics. The weapon triangle and movement types are all present, but the giant maps have been pared down to an 8×6 grid, and you control just four player characters on each.

While it launched a little short on content, there is now an overwhelming amount of stuff to do in FEH. There’s a campaign with almost 100 levels, which is regularly updated with new chapters. All are playable on three difficulties, and each grants you an Orb upon completion. (Orbs, which allow you to summon random heroes from a virtual slot machine, are the game’s core currency). On top of the campaign, there are rotating special modes that give out more heroes, Orbs and items.

All of these modes really just serve to strengthen your roster for the Arena, the game’s PVP mode where 100,000s of players battle each week to increase their rank and gain bigger rewards. Battling isn’t real-time — you set a defense team that opponents will try to best while you battle against other users’ defense teams — but it is nonetheless engaging and truly taxing at times. You need to win seven matches in a row without losing a single character to get anything resembling a decent score, and you also need to think about what units have the highest rating, and who will provide bonuses. My strong offensive heroes, for example, can effectively destroy every defense team in the game, but their overall rating (the sum of the their stats) is so low that I’d never earn enough points to keep my place in the top Arena tiers.

While the campaign maps plays out like a puzzle, the Arena is more like a gruelling chess match. There are almost 170 heroes to date, and at least a third of them are good enough that you’ll come up against them in the Arena.

Barring minor deviations, heroes have fixed stats, but players can swap out their weapons and skills to drastically change how each works on the battlefield. To do this, you essentially destroy one hero to give up to three of their skills to another. On top of that, you can merge identical heroes for a couple of extra stat points. As your Arena opponents are unlikely to be running a unit’s default skills, you have to carefully examine your opponents in a way that isn’t really necessary in the PVE modes, and you also need to prepare your team for a wide set of possible combatants. Because of this, my core three characters are actually the amalgamation of 20 separate heroes. And here we get to FEH‘s biggest issue: economics.

Like many free-to-play games, there’s a complex set of systems and items that feed into one another to keep you playing, and, ideally, spending. Intelligent Systems regularly adds seasonal banners to pull from containing new heroes with “must-have” skills, and the first hints of power creep (where new units drastically outmuscle older ones, requiring you to spend to replace them) are beginning to rear their head.

It is entirely possible to play FEH without spending a penny, of course, and I know many people that do. You’ll get enough Orbs every month to summon ten or so heroes, and new players, after completing the various challenges on offer, will have a roster of around 100 heroes to work with (albeit with many duplicates).

It’s definitely more forgiving for free-to-play gamers than similar titles, and Intelligent Systems has been improving the overall experience virtually constantly since launch. Early issues with a very limited “stamina” pool were quickly rectified, and there have been several quality-of-life improvements and mechanical additions over the months. But the allure of spending a little to pull better heroes is strong, and once you give in to those urges, it’s tough to pull back.

Gambling addiction has been fairly frequently discussed on the community Reddit and Discord, and I’ve spent big on certain banners. Like, way too big. If you have a predilection to gambling and/or addiction, you’re probably better off leaving FEH alone. But if you trust yourself to keep your spending in check, I can’t recommend it enough.

Overwatch

Jessica Conditt

Jessica Conditt
Senior Reporter

I haven’t played League of Legends in ages and it’s all Overwatch’s fault. One and a half years after Overwatch landed on my PlayStation 4, it’s still the game I want to play at the end of the day. My fingers itch to load up competitive matches (at least one per day), casual games and new modes. The most recent additions, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, showed up at the perfect time: More than a year into its tenure, Overwatch was overdue for some straight-up bullet-bonanza modes, and I consistently find myself saying, “OK, just one more round” multiple times a night. Before loading up a competitive match, of course.

I’m not sure what it is about Overwatch that keeps me coming back for more. I think it has a lot to do with the look of its entire world — each hero is unique and packed with personality, and everything is bubbly and bright, from the maps to the animations and the character designs themselves. But, mostly, Overwatch is an engaging, stupidly fun shooter. Sorry, League. I’ll be back. Eventually.

Splatoon 2

Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

For a few months it was a running joke around the office that I wasted my money by buying a Switch because I didn’t buy Zelda. I still haven’t bought it. Why then, did I buy a system and ignore its one outstanding game? Because all I really wanted was Splatoon 2. The original title was pretty much the only reason I had a Wii U. I especially loved the ranked battles, which added a lot of variety after I got tired of the regular battles and their Turf War mode. I played them all the time and slowly but surely worked my way up through the letter grades. I did eventually move on to other games like Tokyo Mirage Sessions. But the minute Splatoon 2 was announced for the Switch I could feel the want stirring in my soul. The need.

So of course I bought Splatoon 2 the day it came out. Of course I stayed home that weekend, plowing through battle after battle in Turf War because you need to be at least level 10 to compete in ranked battles. And, while I will use the regular battles to warm up whenever I turn on the game, the ranked battles are my raison d’être for playing. I need them. And I need to improve my rank.

Every player starts out with a C- rank in the three different modes: Tower Control, Splat Zones and Rainmaker. You work your way up by winning battles, while losing battles knocks you down a bit and puts you at risk at going down an entire rank. For someone who’s played the game before, you would think it should be simple enough to battle back up into an ‘A’ ranking, right?

Well, no, because Splatoon is a team-based game and you’re paired up with whatever randos happen to be online at the time. Battles at the C level are terrible, with a grab bag of players who don’t understand the rules, players who just don’t seem to care and people who are just awful. After struggling my way to ‘C’ and ‘C+’ I noticed a huge change in the quality of the battles once I started getting matched with B-level players. The games weren’t as one-sided; The players actually put some effort into it. Rather than simply struggling to increase my rank, I started having a lot more fun.

But lately, I’ve found my rank tanking again. A lot of players seem to content to just screw around and take their time, and the other team ends up gaining an early lead we never quite recover from. Sometimes the rest of my team is just not to be found, leaving me to guard our zones or ride the tower or run with the Rainmaker alone. I get mad. I curse. A lot. It’s usually along the lines of “where the fuck are you fucks” and “what the fuck was that” and “I fucked up” and the classic “fuck fuck fuckity fuck.”

Over time I’ve noticed that the games seem to improve after 10PM or so. I tend to win more battles if I play late in the evening, and my rank goes up, and I was feeling pretty good about it. But why? Oh. That’s when all the kids go to bed, isn’t it?

Kids tend to play more in the afternoons and on weekends, and that’s when my rank suffers and I end up cursing a blue streak. I’ve been screaming horrible, horrible things at eight year olds who just want to enjoy their little squid kid game. I’ve been screaming nasty, disgusting things at probably some little girl in Iowa who probably just really likes her avatar’s pink sneakers and bucket.

Man, it’s really good this game doesn’t native voice chat.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

14
Sep

Samsung has a $300 million fund aimed at smarter cars


Samsung is planning to get ahead in the connected car market with a new $300 million fund focused entirely on auto-related startups and technologies. The Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund has been earmarked for smart sensors, machine vision, artificial intelligence, safety solutions and more, and will help even the playing field between the company and its biggest rivals. Intel paid $15.3 billion last month to acquire Mobileye, while Qualcomm is currently in the process of buying automotive-grade chip maker NXP Semiconductors. Samsung’s first major investment with the fund — to the tune of $89 million — will be in networking and safety control company TTTech. The company has provided automotive technology to a number of manufacturers, including Boeing for its 787 Dreamliner, NASA for its Orion Spacecraft, and more pertinently, Audi for its A8.

Samsung’s own recent acquisition, Harman, is also taking steps to establish itself in the automotive market. The company, best known for its consumer audio speakers, wants to build on the 65 percent of sales it already derives from its automotive arm (for satnavs and on-board entertainment systems), and has concurrently launched a new autonomous strategic business unit (SBU). The Harman SBU will work closely with the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center Smart Machines team to pull together consumer electronics and autotechnology, and to develop key technologies for safer, smarter, connected vehicles.

The allocation of these resources and renewed focus on the automotive sector is designed to give Samsung the confidence to enter what is becoming an increasingly crowded market — and vehicle technology is not the company’s mainstay. But as Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of Harman, says: “There is already a high demand for ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems] solutions, and that demand is rapidly growing with the advancements in connected cars and autonomous driving.” Samsung wants in on the action, and is happy to put its money where its mouth is.

Via: Business Wire

14
Sep

Parrot’s Mambo FPV mini quadcopter gives you a drone’s eye view


If you’re a fan of racing drones, then you may want to pay attention to Parrot’s latest product release. The drone company has announced the Parrot Mambo FPV, a minidrone equipped with a first-person HD camera that allows both live streaming and video recording. The drone can fly up to 18 miles per hour and has three piloting modes, Easy, Racing and Drift, depending on what your goals and experience level are. We’re not sure when exactly it will be available, though we know it’s sometime this month. It will cost you $180.

The Parrot Mambo FPV comes with a pretty solid equipment list. You get the quadcopter drone, an FPV HD camera, a pair of Cockpitglasses and a flypad (though you can also use the FreeFlight Mini app to pilot it), along with propellor guards, a battery, and a micro USB cable. You can also use a micro SD card, which isn’t included in the package, to take pictures and record video.

The glasses are an integral part of the immersive experience of the Mambo; you can insert your smartphone (up to 6 inches in size) into the goggles. They allow for a wide-field, immersive view to get as close to the drone’s action as possible. The Mambo FPV also supports fast-charging; a 25-minute charge (with a 2.6 amp AC adapter, which isn’t included) gets you a fully charged 10 minutes of flight time. If you’re interested in an immersive drone experience, this seems like one to check out.

14
Sep

GoPro’s Hero6 camera may feature 4K 60 FPS recording


GoPro is inching toward profitability, and its new Hero6 Black might finally bring the action-cam maker into the black. Spotted by a Photo Rumors reader, the camera will apparently capture 4K 60 FPS video (the Hero5 was 4K 30 FPS) from its 12 megapixel sensor. That’s according to a photo of what looks like final retail packaging. Other than that, there are about as many new details as there were when CEO Nick Woodman confirmed the Hero6’s existence in February.

But, it looks like the new unit will retain the Hero5’s design, so your collection of accessories will work once this supposedly is released near month’s end. The real question here will be one of price. Competitor Yi’s 4K camera captures UHD resolution at 60 FPS too, and for $340. GoPro’s Hero5 currently sells for $400 on Amazon.

Source: Photo Rumors

14
Sep

Follow Cassini’s final moments before it plunges into Saturn


For the last thirteen years, Cassini has been orbiting Saturn, sending back extraordinary images and data from the ringed planet and its moons. But now, it’s time to say goodbye. Tomorrow, September 15th, the spacecraft will make its final fiery plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere.

At 7:54 AM ET, Cassini will enter Saturn’s atmosphere at about 1,190 miles above where we think the planet’s cloud tops are. It will be traveling at approximately 70,000 miles per hour. The little spacecraft that could will continue to transmit for as long as it possibly can, firing its control thrusters in short bursts as it enters the atmosphere. This will help keep its antenna pointed at Earth so Mission Control can collect as much data as possible. The thrusters will quickly ramp up power, going from 10 percent to 100 in less than a minute. Once the thrusters are maxed out, there will be nothing left for Cassini to do. It will no longer be able to maintain its stability and begin to tumble. NASA predicts that it will lose contact with Cassini at 7:55 AM ET, about 930 miles above Saturn’s clouds.

Things will progress pretty quickly after that, though we won’t be able to see it from Earth. While telescopes will be pointed at Saturn to try and capture Cassini’s last moments, it likely will be moving too fast (and is too small) for any images. Cassini will survive for about half a minute longer before the forces of Saturn’s atmosphere begin to rip it apart as it burns up during descent. It will take just a few minutes for it to be completely destroyed.

If you’d like to follow along with Cassini’s Grand Finale, there are a few things you can do. There are plenty of scientists and science journalists who are at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and are covering the spacecraft’s final journey; Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society is a personal favorite, and she’ll be livetweeting the entire event. Slooh will also be pointing its telescopes towards Saturn at 4 PM ET today.

Starting tonight, Cassini will take its last pictures of Saturn and begin sending over all the data it has stored in preparation for the switch to real-time transmission. NASA will begin posting these final raw images to Cassini’s mission website around 11 PM ET tonight.

Tomorrow morning, you can tune into live commentary and video from Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California on NASA TV. That will start at 7 AM ET. And finally, there will be a media briefing at 9:30 AM ET that will also be aired live on NASA TV.

It’s going to be difficult to say goodbye to Cassini; it’s brought us so many incredible discoveries, data and images. It’s hard not to get attached to these spacecraft, especially because their missions are so long — Cassini launched back in 1997. It’s done good work, and now it’s time to give the spacecraft a well deserved rest. So long, Cassini, and thanks for all the memories.

14
Sep

Sperm microscope may help nanobots navigate human bodies


Scientists have developed a microscope that allows them to track sperm movements in 3D, which could benefit the understanding of both fertility treatment and micro-robotics. The device is made up of inexpensive components including LEDs and an image sensor — like the one found in a mobile phone — and uses holography and image reconstruction algorithms to precisely track the motion of sperm heads and tails.

Until now, surprisingly little has been known about sperm swimming patterns in 3D, as most conventional microscopes can only observe movement in 2D. Scientists already knew that sperm heads spin and tales (“flagellum”) waver, but the microscope has now revealed intricate beating patterns that couldn’t be identified before.

As well as shedding light on the attributes of both healthy and defective sperm — which could bring important insight to fertility studies — the microscope could also provide new understanding in the world of micro-robotics.

According to Aydogan Ozcan, professor of electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering at UCLA, where the microscope was developed: “Understanding the spin of the sperm head and beating patterns of the flagellum could help engineers design more advanced microscale robots that would mimic the way that sperms move and sense their environment.” The practical applications of this aren’t yet clear, but in theory, understanding the way sperm swim could provide a basis for nanobot guidance through the human body, a once-sci-fi sounding notion that is gaining increasing traction in mainstream medicine.

Via: phys.org

Source: Nature

14
Sep

Snapchat’s World Lens Filters Now Include Augmented Reality Bitmoji


Snapchat will now allow users to view their Bitmoji characters in augmented reality, through an addition to its previous “World Lens” feature. With the update, Bitmoji will be able to do yoga, skateboard, drink coffee, and more, all taking place in real-world surroundings in AR (via TechCrunch).

Image via TechCrunch
Similar to Snapchat’s popular dancing hotdog character, the Bitmoji will anchor to a spot in the environment and allow the user to walk around the characters for multiple angles and photo/video moments. They will be able to grow larger and smaller by swiping up and down on the screen, and multiple animation options will be available for users to choose from. Some of these will last longer than ten seconds, meaning Snapchat’s multi-snap feature will be needed to string longer clips together.

Snapchat was featured briefly during Apple’s September 12 media event, where Craig Federighi demoed a few face filters in the social media app. On iPhone X and iOS 11, Snapchat’s filters — and other AR experiences like the new World Lens Bitmoji — will be improved thanks to the advanced front-facing camera sensors of the iPhone X, and ARKit in iOS 11.


The AR Bitmoji feature is rolling out globally on iOS beginning today, with Android users planned to receive the update sometime in the future. To be able to use the Bitmoji in World Lenses, users will first have to download the Bitmoji app and create their own character.

Tags: Snapchat, augmented reality
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14
Sep

Apple Watch Series 3: LTE Plan Prices on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell, EE, and Deutsche Telekom


Apple Watch Series 3 is available with built-in cellular capabilities, allowing you to make phone calls, send and receive text messages, stream music, get directions with Apple Maps, use Siri, and more without a paired iPhone.

The freedom comes at a cost, however, as Apple Watch Series 3 models with cellular are priced $70 higher than those with Wi-Fi and GPS only. Also, to access LTE, the watch must be added to your phone bill as an additional monthly charge.

Here’s a breakdown of how much participating carriers plan to charge. Some carriers have yet to announce their plans.

Verizon

Verizon said it allow customers to add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. Verizon will reportedly waive its $30 activation fee, and is offering the first three months of service for free. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Verizon’s NumberShare feature.

AT&T

AT&T has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. AT&T is offering a $25 activation fee credit, and a $30 service credit for adding an Apple Watch, within three bills. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via AT&T’s NumberSync feature.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to a plan for $10 per month with AutoPay. T-Mobile will reportedly waive its $25 new SIM card kit fee, and is offering the first three months of service for free. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via T-Mobile’s DIGITS feature.

Sprint

Sprint has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. Sprint will also offer a special introductory three-month cellular plan trial. The carrier has yet to specify whether its activation fee of up to $30 per line will be waived as well, but it would seem likely.

Bell (Canada)

Bell has announced that customers will be able to add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $5 per month. There is a one-time $10 activation fee. Bell will also offer a special introductory three-month cellular plan trial. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Bell’s NumberShare feature.

Bell will not support the Apple Watch’s cellular capabilities in Manitoba or Saskatchewan due to the carrier’s lack of VoLTE in those provinces.

EE (UK)

EE has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible SIM only or pay monthly plan for £5 per month, with the watch and iPhone sharing the same phone number. The carrier hasn’t confirmed if it will be offering an introductory three-month trial, or if there will be an activation fee.

Deutsche Telekom (Germany)

Deutsche Telekom has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for up to €4.95 per month, with the first six months free of charge. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Deutsche Telekom’s MultiSIM feature. The carrier didn’t specify if there is an activation fee.

Apple Watch Series 3 models will be available to order starting tomorrow, September 15, at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time. In-store availability begins September 22. LTE-enabled models start at $399 in the United States.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Tags: Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, EE, Deutsche Telekom, Bell
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Don’t Buy)
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