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Tech companies face scrutiny from Congress over data sharing

Facebook, Twitter, Google and other tech companies are about to face some close scrutiny from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight over the tech and telecom industries. According to Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), it’s all in the name of consumer protection. Hearings are currently scheduled for November, but Walden sees this as a long-term process.

Specifically, the committee is interested in how exactly these companies’ algorithms work, and how they protect privacy. “We will be taking a more expansive look at the online experience to ensure safety, security, and an unfiltered flow of information,” said Walden in a post on Medium. The end goal is to give consumers more understanding of and power over how companies use their personal information.

There isn’t one single inspiration for this investigation, though Walden does cite the Equifax breach in his post as an example of “the staggering amount of personal information changing hands online.” The committee’s goal is to make sure that algorithms and personal information sharing practices between companies don’t violate people’s safety or their choices as a consumer.

Further down the road, Walden plans on hearings centering on identity verification and steps people can take once they know their personal data has been leaked. We all know that tech companies mine our data; it will be interesting to see what comes out of these hearings, and if a broader framework with consumer protections could be a result.

Via: Recode

Source: Medium


‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ fans will have to read a book for closure

Fans of Mass Effect who have been waiting for the conclusion of the Quarian ark storyline in Andromeda, we have a good news/bad news situation for you. The good news is that we’ll finally find out what happened aboard the ark, called the Keelah Si’yah, and get some closure for that storyline. The bad news is that it’s happening in novel form, rather than as a playable DLC. The plot point will be resolved in the book Mass Effect: Annihilation, which will be written by sci-fi author Catherynne M. Valente. It releases in the US, UK and Canada on June 26, 2018, and in Australia on August 28, 2018.

The fourth installment of BioWare’s incredibly popular Mass Effect franchise, Andromeda, left something to be desired among fans. The reaction, at least on the Internet, was pretty negative, for many different reasons. BioWare promised to fix some of the biggest issues, especially in regard to bugs in animation and gameplay, but the company issued a statement back in August that the game would not receive any more single-player patches or DLC.

It’s nice that this storyline will get some closure, and it’s understandable that EA and BioWare don’t want to sink more time into a game that’s been so badly bungled, from delays to releasing the game with such bad quality control issues. Let’s hope the companies haven’t closed the book on the entire franchise, and that they give the series its due in a new video game.

Via: Twitter

Source: Bioware


Amazon’s ‘Breakaway’ game is on hold while developers make changes

Breakaway, a competitive battle game under development Double Helix and published by Amazon Game Studios, is going on a bit of a break. Following a report from Kotaku claiming that the game was being put on “indefinite hiatus,” the team working on the game said it was “taking some time to iterate and evolve Breakaway’s core gameplay.” That work is being done based on feedback the team received from players during an Alpha period that ran from June though September. In the meantime, however, there won’t be any more Alpha matches hosted, and there’s no timeframe given for how long the Breakaway team will spend retooling things here.

While things don’t appear quite as dire as Kotaku reported, the fate of Breakaway does seem to be up in the air now. There’s now no timeline for when the game will be set for a final release, if that day comes at all, and the other two games that were set to be published by Amazon also don’t have release dates. This bit of news from the Breakaway team is the first thing the developer has shared since the Alpha ended about a month ago. If you were a fan of what Double Helix and Amazon were shooting for here, though, the team is still soliciting feedback and ideas to improve the game — so if you’re a fan and want to see it move forward, don’t be quiet about it.

Source: Breakaway


Amazon Echo review (2017): Good price, bad sound

Two years after its birth, the device that inspired dozens of copycat smart speakers and spawned thousands of integrations is getting a makeover. Amazon’s “all-new” Echo is smaller, cheaper and promises better sound. But, with a pile of new competitors and even more in the pipeline, the second-generation Echo needs to prove it’s still worth your money.


Compared to the older Echo, the new one is somewhat squat. The previous version was like a tall glass of water, while this year’s is more like a beer mug. It’s shorter, wider and has a fabric covering instead of a plastic exterior with a metallic finish. Amazon offers six interchangeable shells for the new Echo, including a lighter fabric, light and dark wood veneers as well as a shiny silver. You can pick any of these as your Echo’s primary cover, instead of having to buy a separate shell. I’m not a fan of my review unit’s black cloth cover, but at least there are attractive alternatives.

There’s not much else to say about the design — you’ll still find the same light ring near the top that indicates when it’s listening and the volume level. A new auxiliary jack should please those who want to connect the Echo to other speakers with a cable. Buttons at the top let you toggle volume or the microphone by hand if you can’t or don’t want to speak.

In use

“Alexa, are you smarter than the Google Assistant?” While she’ll give you a politically correct answer (“I like all AIs”), the actual answer is Yes.

I’ve had both a Google Home and the new Echo side by side in my apartment for a few days, and in general Alexa is better at understanding my commands. I like to have my “Chill at home” playlist in the background when I’m preparing dinner or am getting ready for work, but I get sick of hearing the same few songs in the same order all the time.

To shuffle songs and skip to the next track after I put the playlist on, I usually have to tell Google to shuffle and skip in two separate commands. With Alexa, I just have to say “Alexa, shuffle and skip.” or “Alexa, play my Chill At Home playlist on shuffle.” I can’t even get Google to shuffle my playlist from the get — it has to be a separate command.

Also, Alexa is better at dredging up songs I haven’t recently heard from my 400-track playlist than the Google, which seems to just pick from the same 25 songs in the collection. Both speakers are doing so via Spotify, and it’s hard to determine if it’s the music streaming service or the assistants that are causing the problem. A Spotify spokesperson told Engadget that “There are subtle differences between how Amazon Echo and Google Home work with Spotify. This may result in slightly different playback experiences in certain circumstances.”

Amazon talks a big game about the Echo’s audio quality, saying the speaker uses Dolby processing to pump “crisp vocals and dynamic bass” out of its 2.5-inch woofer and 0.6-inch tweeter. That sounds great on paper, but in reality it sounds limp. Vocals are indeed crisp, but music lacks bass and instruments tend to get lost in the mix. As much as I prefer Alexa as a DJ, I find myself playing music through the Home instead — it just sounds much richer.

The new Echo has seven microphones and noise cancellation to better hear you. I was most impressed by how the speaker can discern what I’m saying over the music it’s playing — something the Google Home struggles with. Amazon’s speaker can also understand me from a distance, even when I was in another room, facing away from it.

As an assistant, Alexa is very capable. Not only can she control smart home devices like my lamps, but she can take notes, make shopping lists, buy stuff on Amazon and more. I particularly appreciate its ability to answer follow-up questions, as if we’re carrying a real conversation. When I asked for movie suggestions in my area, she not only told me what movies were playing, but also asked me what theatres and timings I preferred.

Alexa can now learn “Routines,” which let you set a group of actions for the assistant to carry out when you say a specific phrase — just like the Google Assistant already does. For example, tell Alexa “Start my day,” and she will rattle off the weather forecast, traffic report and a news briefing. I tried to create a routine called “Goodbye” that would turn off my lights and stop my music, but the latter isn’t an option at the moment. That’s too bad, but at least it worked when I set Alexa to switch off my lights when I said “Goodbye”.

I can also use the Echo to call and send messages to other Alexa-enabled devices. I had fun chatting with my colleague Chris Velazco, who received my dictated messages as both texts and audio files. The latter is necessary, since Alexa’s speech recognition isn’t always very accurate: She translated “Does it work?” to “Was at work?” Voice calls over the Echo are a somewhat strange experience. Carrying a conversation with a speaker five feet away feels awkward, and your friend will really have to crank up the volume to hear you when you’re so far away.

Also useful, if slightly creepy, is the Drop In feature, which lets you call your Echo via the Alexa app (or vice versa). You can hear what’s going on in your home or talk to people in your apartment while you’re out. If your device has a camera, like the Echo Show, you can also get a visual feed. This could be helpful, but the way these calls are connected is problematic. Instead of requiring an answer before putting the call through, your Echo simply rings once, glows green, and voila — you’re listening to what’s going on at home. Since it’s your Echo and your home and you can’t violate your own privacy, I guess it makes sense? But, it feels weird if you’re calling in to check on unwitting friends or guests.

My favorite thing about Alexa though? The girl has sass. I asked how she was doing one day, and she said she’d been thinking about a friend lately — a self-driving car. Her humorous, somewhat rambly response almost made it seem like I was talking to a real person. I also liked how her response to my question “What’s up?” was a breakdown of my day, followed by “That’s what’s up.” Little touches like that go a long way to make Alexa feel conversational and real.

The competition

The new Echo faces direct competition not only from rival companies, but from within Amazon itself. If you already have a speaker that you love and only want to add Alexa’s smarts, the Echo Dot makes more sense. Those who want better sound but don’t want to stray from Amazon hardware should consider the Echo Plus, which is $50 more, but has a slightly larger tweeter and a bigger body that should provide a more rounded audio profile and better resonance.

If you like Alexa but Amazon’s hardware leaves you feeling cold you can always opt for the Sonos One. That offers true high-quality audio and smarts, but it costs twice as much and can be difficult to set up. The Sonos speaker is also missing a few voice command features at launch.

If you want another assistant to manage your life altogether, the Google Home is a capable device that, as I’ve mentioned, delivers better audio for $30 more. The big difference is the software, but both Alexa and the Google Assistant work with the same major smart home brands. It all boils down to which company you’ve invested in. Those who own a Chromecast will prefer the Google Home, while Fire TV users should pick the Echo.


Ultimately, the new Echo’s biggest drawback is subpar audio. Those who want a smart speaker with better sound have plenty of options, whether it is the more-expensive Sonos One and Echo Plus or an Echo Dot that adds Alexa to an existing speaker. But for people who just want an Alexa-enabled speaker that looks good and does its job well, the second-generation Echo is a solid, affordable option.


The best learning apps

By Courtney Schley

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

We spent over 25 hours researching and testing more than 35 educational and learning apps recommended by educators, experts, parents, and kids. We also studied research from child developmental psychologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics about children’s app use and the pedagogical principles for creating learning apps. If your family has a tablet and you want it to be more than a game-playing and video-watching device, or if you’re trying to find apps for your smartphone that will do more than keep your kids occupied in a pinch, we have some great suggestions.

How we picked and tested

To find the best learning apps, we sought recommendations from several experts, including Jennifer Auten, an award-winning teacher who’s been using apps in the classroom since 2010; Björn Jeffery, CEO of kids-game developer Toca Boca; and representatives from Project Lead The Way, an education nonprofit that promotes STEM curricula. We also talked with an astronomer, a programmer, and several parents on our staff about the apps their kids love. Finally, we read reports on learning app efficacy from several educational foundations and child development psychologists.

We focused primarily on apps aimed at kids 3 to 8 years old, and looked for these features as recommended by the experts we spoke to:

  • Open-ended, with limits: Apps that are open-ended inspire kids to explore and create, but they should also have built-in limits to encourage them to put the game down after awhile.
  • Engaging but not distracting: A good learning app uses interactive, animated, and responsive features to engage kids and promote learning, not simply to entertain.
  • Encouraging interaction: Apps that encourage real-life interaction with other people can be especially strong at facilitating learning.

Skill-building apps

Motion Math’s offerings include three games that build skills in addition and subtraction, economics, and estimation. Photo: Stephanie Nelson-Gerhardt

Motion Math is one of the few learning-app companies whose games have been shown in a peer-reviewed study to improve students’ math comprehension and scores. Three Motion Math games we tested—Hungry Fish, Pizza, and Questimate—build skills in addition and subtraction (helping fish gobble the right numbers), economics (running a pizza shop by budgeting, buying ingredients, and pricing pizzas), and estimation (making up and then answering questions about animals, geography, and sports).

Bedtime Math seeks to do for math what the bedtime story does for literacy, by turning math into a bonding ritual between child and caregiver. The free app offers daily math questions designed to foster inquiry, conversation, and group problem-solving that increases math confidence in both children and adults. Jennifer Auten told us she likes that the questions are written at a middle-school reading level, meaning an adult facilitates the discussion but you have a choice of four levels of difficulty based on the child’s age and math level.

DragonBox Numbers, aimed at kids 5 and up, introduces number sense, addition, and subtraction through cute characters called Nooms. Kids feed, slice, and sort the Nooms, developing familiarity with addition, subtraction, fractions, and ranges. Continuing in the quest-and-puzzle theme, DragonBox also offers DragonBox Elements, a game for kids 8 and up that turns Euclidean geometry into an adventure. The app does a surprisingly effective job of taking kids on a tour of Euclid’s Elements, the classic 13-volume work that lays out the basic principles of geometry, setting each stage of the game as a clever adaptation of one of Euclid’s proofs.

Coding apps and games

The Osmo system combines apps with hardware accessories. Photo: Osmo

Many great apps teach coding to kids of all ages, but the four we’ve highlighted offer unique features or are particularly easy for kids to jump into.

The Osmo iPad games, which require a base system (a stand and a mirror that attaches to the iPad’s camera), ask kids to use physical game pieces—representing shapes, words, numbers, and more—to play games on the iPad’s screen. The Osmo Coding game uses bricks marked with commands, arrows, numbers, and loops that kids arrange into “scripts” to direct a cute character through mazes and challenges. The physical pieces and the game structure mean that kids don’t need to be able to read and write to begin learning the basics of programming.

In Lightbot, kids solve a series of simple puzzles by lining up commands that make a robot advance over obstacles and light up squares. As kids master basic concepts, they add more-complex commands, such as conditionals, loops, and nested statements. Lightbot Jr follows a similar structure but at a slower pace and with simpler challenges that focus on reinforcing the basics. A minimal amount of reading is required, so pre-readers may need adult help at the beginning.

The Lightbot apps don’t teach a coding language, but we think that’s a positive feature: Once kids get the hang of the basics, they can explore apps that offer more-complex games and let them create their own projects by writing actual code.

Since it debuted in early 2016, Swift Playgrounds has been praised for presenting a fun, intuitive interface for kids roughly 8 and up—and motivated adults—to learn to code using Apple’s Swift programming language. Swift Playgrounds moves slowly through skill-building lessons that introduce concepts while also letting you write real code. Swift Playgrounds requires the ability to read and to enter instructions and commands, so it’s suited for kids at a third-grade reading level or higher, or for use with a parent.

Exploration apps

Tinybop’s Space app, with sparse text and beautiful graphics, is accessible for kids as young as 3 to explore the sun, planets, moon, and galaxy. Photo: Chris Heinonen

Jana Grcevich, an astronomer and author who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has enjoyed the Professor Astro Cat app, along with the popular book series it’s based on, with her 6-year-old niece. Kids explore the app much like they would read a book, delving into facts, illustrations, and animations about planets, moons, stars, and space exploration. At various points, quizzes and other challenges let you earn sardine treats for Professor Astro Cat, keeping the app lighthearted. Because it requires some reading, we think this is most appropriate for the 8 to 12 range.

With sparse text and beautifully illustrated graphics and animations, Space from Tinybop allows kids as young as 3 to explore the sun, planets, moon, and galaxy. Kids witness raging volcanos and explosive gases on Venus, a curious rover inspecting the surface of Mars, and ice and rock rotating in Saturn’s rings. Kids can compare the size and weight of the planets, and look for little delights like finding astronaut poop on the surface of the moon, and dropping pianos and balloons and tin cans into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Also from Tinybop, The Human Body presents kids with an explorable human body that is neither cartoonish nor gory. You can toggle on or off the text labels that identify the systems and organs, but no reading is required to get deep into the app. Kids can watch a mouth chew food and swallow drink, slide into a stomach breaking down food, and follow flashing nerve signals as they race up to the brain. The app is aimed at ages 6 through 8, but younger kids who are building familiarity with anatomy and the body can easily interact with the organs and systems.

Sandbox apps

Toca Boca’s Toca Tea Party has no objective—the app merely sets a scene for play, conversation, and pretending. Photo: Courtney Schley

Created by electronic-music pioneer Morton Subotnick, Pitch Painter gives you a blank canvas on which you can “finger paint” musical notes. You select from instrument groupings representative of different musical cultures, and dab and swipe notes across the screen. As you layer instruments, the basic principles of note value, scales, and melody are visually illustrated on the screen. It’s a novel way to introduce kids aged 3 to 5 to open-ended musical experimentation and to the sounds of instruments from around the world, even if they can’t yet read music.

Toca Tea Party from Toca Boca turns an iPad into a digital tea party, and the app is notable above all in its restraint: You get a few choices (tablecloths, dishes, and treats) for setting your tea table, and the rest is up to your imagination. It has no objective beyond pouring drinks, munching treats, and wiping up spills, and the app has a built-in end point: Once you’ve eaten the treats, the table clears itself and the dishes drop into a sink, ending the party. The app merely sets a scene, and the primary play comes from the conversation (whether with real-life or imaginary companions) and the pretending that accompany it.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


‘Overwatch’ director details plans to improve eSports viewing

eSports are becoming a bigger and bigger industry, and game directors are taking notice. Today, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan released a YouTube video detailing changes the team is making to the game based on user feedback when it comes to eSports. You can see the video below.

Specifically, the team behind Overwatch wanted to address a criticism they have received from users over the last few months: It can be challenging to follow what’s going on when watching Overwatch eSports. They’ve taken the following steps that will hopefully make things a little better.

First, all teams that qualified for the World Cup have team uniforms, which will make their debut at Blizzcon on November 3 and 4. These uniforms will have both home and away colors; the home team will have a darker color while the away team’s will be lighter. The heads-up display is also being adjusted to incorporate these colors.

The team is also introducing a top-down interactive map that allows broadcasters and observers to view all the action at once, as well as the status of the players. Broadcasters will now have the ability to create instant replays while live broadcasts are occurring. Additionally, observers will also be able to take advantage of a third-person smart camera, which will automatically follow the action and smooth the camera motions. It will improve the spectating experience in the third person.

Finally, there’s a new automated interface for anyone running a tournament that should make things easier and smoother. For example, if a player disconnects from the game, the tournament will automatically pause, rather than waiting for the person in charge to manually do it. Hopefully fixes like this will help minimize errors and issues that affect the enjoyment of eSports watching and producing.

Via: Twitter

Source: YouTube


Getting to and living on Mars will be hell on your body

While NASA and SpaceX figure out how to get to Mars, they’re also thinking about how the 200-day journey and life on the red planet will affect humans. Astronauts will be dealing with nasty things like muscle atrophy and bone loss, intra-cranial pressure, psychological issues, lack of resources and long-term radiation exposure. NASA and its partners are working on things like “torpor,” a type of space hibernation, and protective Mars cave dwellings with a view. To learn more, Engadget spoke with NASA scientist Laura Kerber and Spaceworks COO John Bradford at the Hello Tomorrow symposium in Paris.

“There are a lot of challenges that are preventing us from even getting there in a healthy state,” said Bradford in a keynote speech at the event. As a human-space-exploration expert, he’s been working on a way to mitigate many of those problems by putting astronauts in a “torpor state” of prolonged hypothermia. It not only reduces the human problems but helps with technical and engineering challenges, too.

On the medical side, it addresses the so-called psycho-social challenges (you can’t get depressed if you’re asleep), reduces intra-cranial pressure, opens up new approaches like electrostimulation to reduce muscle atrophy and bone loss, and even helps minimize radiation exposure.

From a technical standpoint, torpor makes NASA and SpaceX’s travel plans easier. It significantly cuts food requirements and reduces the required habitable volume and power levels. “These are all things that drive up the mass of the system,” said Bradford. “The propulsive energy required is an exponential function (of mass), so anytime we can reduce that, it has significant benefits.”

The word “torpor” sounds scary. It kind of is. Our normal body temperature is about 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit), but humans in torpor have a body temperature of 32-34 Celsius, the same as for medical therapeutic hypothermia. That treatment has been used to help heart attack victims and was used to cool F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s brain to reduce swelling. It requires careful monitoring, of course.

Compared to medical hypothermia that usually only lasts a few days, astronauts would go into a torpor state for two weeks, wake up for a few days, then repeat the process until arriving on Mars. That poses multiple dangers. You’d need risky long-term sedation, nutrition and hydration, waste disposal and fine-tuned climate control, to name a few technologies.

To deal with those things, Spaceworks and NASA are looking at medical, physical and pharmaceutical approaches. That includes drugs that make your body think a 32-34 degree C temperature is “normal” and a PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) tube inserted directly into your stomach to feed you. The latter would make the transition from a torpor to awake state much easier.

Other techniques would include whole body electrical stimulation to reduce muscle atrophy, an oxygen hood for fine control of oxygen and CO2 levels, sensors to monitor your vitals, a temperature-controlled environment, and yep, a waste-collection system. As pictured above, that looks pretty much like the science-fiction “suspended animation” pods you’ve seen in movies.

The end result of this would (hopefully) be healthy, happy astronauts, and smaller, more-efficient spaceships. NASA’s Mars transporter could be reduced in size by nearly half, from 45.5 to 25.5 tons, with half the necessary habitable volume and a quarter of the power. That’d make it more feasible to get the thousands of people necessary for a viable colony onto Mars.

“I do believe that this is a key to extended space flight to Mars and other destinations,” says Bradford. “You’re not going to do it without some breakthrough, game-changing technology [like torpor].”

You’ll be happy to arrive on Mars after all that, but your problems are far from over. “Some of the biggest challenges are the high-pressure environment, which requires a bulky, pressurized space suit, and the cold temperatures at night,” says NASA/JPL planetary geology researcher Laura Kerber. For that, NASA scientists are working on lighter spacesuits that could use less pressurization through mechanical compression on the body.

Radiation is also a big problem because Mars doesn’t have a protective magnetic field like Earth does. The gravity is only a third of that here, and scientists aren’t exactly sure what effect that will have on settlers. Researchers also need to know more about Martian dust to figure out how safe it is to breathe in or get on your skin.

On top of the environmental challenges, there are the geographical ones. Mars has nearly the same dry land mass as Earth, but the topology is pretty gnarly.

“Valles Marineris canyon stretches the equivalent distance of the entire United States,” Kerber says. “So if you go along in your rover, you might say, ‘Wow, this is three times deeper than the Grand Canyon, maybe we can go around.’ You’re not going to go around.” Other problems include landslides, impact craters (which happen way more often than on Earth), carbon-dioxide geysers, planet-encircling dust storms and more.

Another issue is resources. “The tyranny of Mars is that most of the water is located where it’s not at all nice to live,” says Kerber. “There’s lots of water at the poles where it’s cold, but if you go near the equator, where its a lot warmer and where it’s nicer to get into orbit, you have a lot less water.” And if astronauts do find a water or methane supply, they’ll have to weigh the benefits of using it for drinking water versus breaking it into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

(On the plus side, Kerber jokes, you’ll instantly be a third your Earth weight, have more time to get things done in each 24-hour, 40-minute Martian day, and be younger, thanks to a year that’s nearly double the length of Earth’s.)

NASA scientists have already used the Curiosity rover to study radiation, the atmosphere and geology of the red planet, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. Future missions will need to measure the same parameters in different locations and gather a lot more information. Kerber would like to see an orbiting observer with more resolution so that scientists can find valuable minerals needed to support life, for instance.

Bagnold Dunes near Mount Sharp (NASA/Curiosity)

Where is the ideal place to live, according to Kerber? She has her eye on a spot near the equator, with fine-grained materials that you could use to build roads and cliffs that could be hollowed out to build cave-type dwellings.

“On Mars, you’re going to be living right at the edge of technology, like the most-advanced technology possible, but you’re also going to be living a really primitive existence,” she said. “I imagine us going back to our cave-dwelling days. If you’re in a cave, you’re protected from radiation and temperature swings. But if you’re on the side of a cliff, at least you’re not totally underground, so you can have nice windows and a view.”

In other words, you might be in kind of a hypothermic coma on the way to Mars, and then living in a cave, scratching out an existence once you arrive. Who in the hell would want to do that? Kerber says it’s definitely not the kind of person who wants to be younger and lighter, as she had joked earlier.

Instead, she refers to an early 1900s classified ad from polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, which applies equally to both sexes. “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”


FIFA and EA will put on the first-ever ‘eWorld Cup’ next year

FIFA and Electronic Arts are taking their partnership to the logical conclusion point: the pair will put on the first-ever eWorld Cup next August. Competition starts next month on November 3rd. From the press release:

“Competitors can qualify based on their FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) Champions Weekend League online performance and at blockbuster live qualifying events from November 2017 until July 2018.

Through the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series, EA and FIFA will identify the top 128 competitors (64 players representing PlayStation®4 and 64 players representing Xbox One) to continue to the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs. The playoffs will lead to the final stop on the Global Series Tour – the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 18.”

The competitions will take place in a few different ways. There will be licensed qualifying rounds where independent organizers can set up official tournaments, for one. And then there will also be Official League Qualifying Competitions where established teams will hold tournaments.

Rounding it out are FIFA Ultimate Team Champions Cups, which sound like open competition for anyone who thinks they have what it takes to go head to head with the pros. “The top competitors will qualify for two major live tournaments to be held in January and April 2018,” the press release said.

FIFA has made a big push into the eSports world, partnering with BT in the UK to broadcast the games on TV, and the league itself has started signing eSports athletes teams to represent the traditional ones on the virtual pitch. It’s only natural that replicating one of the world’s biggest sporting events for competitive gaming would come next.

Source: Electronic Arts


Apple Says iPhone X Demand is ‘Off the Charts’ After Device Quickly Sells Out Around the World

iPhone X pre-orders began at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time today and effectively sold out in just minutes. Orders placed now are estimated to ship in five to six weeks, pushing deliveries into early December.

While the shipping estimates aren’t a reliable indicator of iPhone X sales without knowing how much supply is available, Apple issued a statement to MacRumors indicating that customer demand is “off the charts.”

We are thrilled to be taking orders for iPhone X, the future of the smartphone. We can see from the initial response, customer demand is off the charts. We’re working hard to get this revolutionary new product into the hands of every customer who wants one, as quickly as possible. We will keep accepting orders online, and iPhone X will be available at Apple retail stores on Friday, November 3 starting at 8 a.m., as well as from our carrier and retailer partners around the world.

“The surging shipment lead times around the iPhone X approach the very popular iPhone 6 Plus,” said Brian White, an Apple analyst with Drexel Hamilton, in a research note obtained by MacRumors.

The comparison with the iPhone 6 launch doesn’t tell us much since, again, we don’t know how much inventory was available on each launch day.

Gene Munster, a longtime Apple analyst turned venture capitalist at Loup Ventures, said he views Apple’s current five to six week shipping estimate as a sign that demand for the iPhone X is “trending more favorable than investor expectations.”

Munster created a chart that visualizes exactly when the iPhone X shipping estimates changed throughout the early hours.

Leading up to iPhone X pre-orders, multiple reports suggested Apple’s manufacturing partners were struggling to assemble the TrueDepth camera and 3D facial recognition system that powers Face ID.

For this reason, several industry observers said the iPhone X would be in extremely short supply until next year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo forecasted there would just two to three million units available at launch.

Apple stopped releasing first weekend sales numbers for new iPhone models last year, as demand typically outweighs supply, so the company feels it is no longer a representative metric for investors or customers.

Customers that missed out on pre-orders or face a lengthy shipping estimate can try their luck at Apple Stores on November 3. Apple said stores will have the iPhone X available for walk-in customers on a first come, first served basis, and it suggested customers arrive early as it anticipates strong demand.

Related Roundup: iPhone XBuyer’s Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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Apple Watch Series 3 With GPS Now Available in Four More Countries, Brazil and South Korea Next Month

Apple Watch Series 3 models with Wi-Fi and GPS became available to purchase on Apple’s website in Mexico and the Philippines today after launching in Bahrain and Malaysia last week. Apple says the non-cellular models will also be available to buy in South Korea on November 3 and in Brazil on November 17.

Apple Watch Series 3 first launched September 22 in the United States Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK.

Availability of the GPS-only models expanded to the United Arab Emirates the next day, and to Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Guam, Hungary, Iceland, India, Jersey, Macau, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Thailand, and Turkey on September 29. Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia followed September 30.

Apple Watch Series 3 models with LTE launched September 22 in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and the UK, with other countries to follow next year.

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