PlayStation 5 finally gets 1440p support and game folders

Sony has begun testing a software update that adds some key features users have been requesting for almost two years. While there’s a lot going on in this update—it’s one of the most significant since the PS5 first shipped—two features stand out.

The first is that the PS5 now supports 1440p output over HDMI. Previously, it supported 720p, 1080i, 1080p, and 4K, since those are the most common TV resolutions. But many players wanted to play the PS5 on their 1440p desktop computer monitors—something that both the Xbox and (obviously) gaming PCs have supported for a long time.

There are quite a few games on the console that are a great fit for 1440p, especially since 1440p was the actual resolution for many PS4 Pro games, and it’s a common resolution for the 60 fps or 120 fps performance modes of some PS5 games. Games that support native 1440p will output at just that.

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#playstation-5, #ps5, #sony, #tech

PSVR 2 gets some new improvements over Sony’s original headset

You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset.

Enlarge / You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset. (credit: PlayStation Blog)

Users of the original PlayStation VR headset quickly got used to sliding the display away from their faces when they needed to get a quick look at their surroundings. That won’t be necessary on the PSVR 2, which will use a passthrough camera to provide a black-and-white view of the real-world environment.

In a PlayStation Blog post Tuesday, Sony discussed how PSVR 2 users could activate this passthrough function using a dedicated button on the headset or through a Control Center menu while using the device. The passthrough image—powered by four mounted cameras that also provide positional tracking without any external devices—is similar to those offered by competing headsets like the Oculus Quest.

Players will not be able to record the passthrough view using the PS5’s built-in recording options, Sony said. But players who have a PS5 HD camera will be able to film themselves while in VR and overlay that image on a gameplay view for streaming purposes.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr2, #sony, #virtual-reality, #vr

Judge dismisses lawsuit over alleged “monopoly pricing” on PlayStation Store

Judge dismisses lawsuit over alleged “monopoly pricing” on PlayStation Store

A judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit that argued Sony was abusing its monopoly power in the digital PlayStation games market. But the dismissal leaves room for an amended complaint with additional factual context to move forward with the same “viable” antitrust arguments.

The lawsuit, originally filed last May, hinged on Sony’s 2019 decision to stop allowing physical and online retailers from selling digital download codes for games on the PSN store (as Nintendo and Microsoft still allow). That decision was “specifically intended to and did eliminate price competition from other digital video game retailers,” the lawsuit alleged, forcing players “to pay a higher price for digital PlayStation games than they would in a free and unrestrained competitive retail market.”

But in a ruling filed last week (as noted by Bloomberg Law), Northern California District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote that the class action plaintiffs didn’t provide “sufficient factual detail” that Sony “voluntarily terminated a profitable practice” in removing the retail download codes.

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#gaming-culture, #lawsuit, #monopoly, #sony

Sony finally releases a 4K monitor you might actually want 

Sony InZone monitor

Enlarge / Sony’s InZone monitors use a “low-depth tripod stand” to provide more room for other peripherals, Sony said in its video announcement. (credit: Sony/YouTube)

Known for everything from TVs to cameras and smartphones, Sony is getting into gaming peripherals, it announced Tuesday. Sony’s new InZone brand will include a pair of monitors, plus wireless and wired headsets aimed at PC and, naturally, PlayStation gamers.

Sony’s first consumer monitors in ages

Sony isn’t likely a name you think of when going PC monitor shopping. It hasn’t made consumer monitors since the early 2000s, though it has continued to sell expensive, chunky professional monitors for broadcast and production. That changes with the flagship Sony inZone M9 and its sibling, the InZone M3.

The M9, never to be confused with the Samsung M8 4K smart monitor announced in March, is a 27-inch 4K HDR monitor with a 144 Hz refresh rate. Its most interesting feature, however, is its LED backlight with full-array local dimming (FALD), which—along with VESA DisplayHDR 600 certification and 95 percent claimed DCI-P3 coverage—is particularly appealing for HDR users.

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#ars-shopping, #audio, #gaming-culture, #gaming-headsets, #headphones, #monitors, #sony, #tech

Sony’s new PlayStation Plus launches in US with over 800 games

When Sony announced its new tiered PlayStation Plus program back in March, it promised that the most expensive Premium tier would include “up to” 740 games from across all five PlayStation consoles (and the PlayStation Portable). As recently as last month, the company had only revealed a bit over 100 of the games that would be included in its top-tier subscription plan.

With today’s launch of the new PlayStation Plus in the US, though, we can now see the full catalog of titles Sony is making available to subscribers for download and/or streaming. And that launch list actually surpasses Sony’s promises, including nearly 400 PS4/PS5 games (available on the “Extra” tier or above) and over 460 games from earlier console generations (available on the “Premium” tier).

In terms of recent-generation games, PlayStation Plus includes 34 that also offer an “enhanced” PS5 version, alongside a handful of PS5 exclusives like Returnal and Demon’s Souls. That list also includes 27 games from “Ubisoft Plus Classics” provided by the major third-party publisher.

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#gaming-culture, #playstation-plus, #ps4, #ps5, #sony, #subscription

Sony’s latest State of Play: Street Fighter 6, Final Fantasy XVI, new PC ports

We knew Sony was bullish about PC game launches in 2022, but we didn't think Spider-Man would be included. Great news for PC gamers.

Enlarge / We knew Sony was bullish about PC game launches in 2022, but we didn’t think Spider-Man would be included. Great news for PC gamers. (credit: Sony / Insomniac / Nixxes)

On Thursday, Sony’s latest game-filled “State of Play” presentation included fantastic news for PC gamers: Its critically acclaimed Marvel’s Spider-Man is coming to Windows PCs on August 12. The news arrived shortly after a leak suggesting that Returnal and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are not only coming to PC this year, as well, but will include toggles to make them look and perform better than their PlayStation 5 versions.

The event was jam-packed with impressive-looking new games, though most of them have been given 2023 release dates (and everything shown on the upcoming PlayStation VR 2 platform is thus far undated, as that new peripheral still doesn’t have a release date). As PC gaming enthusiasts, however, we want to start with the PC-specific news.

Why Sony’s PC bullishness makes us believe today’s leak

Marvel’s Spider-Man launched on PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro in September 2018 and landed near the top of our favorite games of that year. Its PC port, which we are still surprised to see, given what a PlayStation console sales driver it’s been, will arrive on PC courtesy of Nixxes, a development studio known for some of the best console-to-PC ports of the past decade. Sony acquired Nixxes in early 2021, but up until today, that acquisition hadn’t yet borne fruit, as Sony’s other recent Windows game releases didn’t credit Nixxes in any way.

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#gaming-culture, #pc-gaming, #playstation, #returnal, #sackboy, #sony, #sony-interactive-entertainment, #state-of-play

Sony accelerates push into car sector in diversification drive

Sony accelerates push into car sector in diversification drive

Enlarge (credit: Kazuhiro Nogi | Getty )

Sony expects to supply imaging sensors to 15 of the world’s top 20 global automakers by 2025, underscoring the company’s ambitions for electric vehicles and autonomous driving as it tries to diversify beyond mobile phones.

The Japanese conglomerate flagged its intention to accelerate a push into the auto industry in 2020 when it unveiled a prototype EV called the Vision-S. This year, it has launched an EV division and announced a joint venture with Honda to make cars.

Sony has now said it aims to provide the sensors crucial to EVs and autonomous vehicles, as it diversifies beyond making smartphone camera parts for Apple, Google, and Samsung.

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#cars, #imaging, #self-driving, #sensors, #sony, #tech

Are we on the verge of an 8K resolution breakthrough in gaming?

A slide from TV manufacturer TCL guesses at some details for the next micro-generation of high-end game consoles.

Enlarge / A slide from TV manufacturer TCL guesses at some details for the next micro-generation of high-end game consoles. (credit: PPE)

With the 2020 release of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, we’ve started to see the era of console games that finally make full use of TVs capable of 4K resolutions (i.e., “Ultra HD” 3840×2160 pixels) that have become increasingly popular in the marketplace. Now, though, at least one TV manufacturer is already planning to support 8K-capable consoles (i.e., 7680×4320 resolution) that it thinks could launch in the next year or two.

Polish gaming site PPL reports on a recent public presentation by Chinese TV and electronics maker TCL. Tucked away in a slide during that presentation is a road map for what TCL sees as “Gen 9.5” consoles coming in 2023 or ’24. Those supposed consoles—which the slide dubs the PS5 Pro and “New Xbox Series S/X”—will be capable of pushing output at 8K resolution and up to 120 frames per second, according to TCL’s slide.

First off, there’s little reason to believe that a lesser-known TV manufacturer has leaked the first official word of Sony and Microsoft’s next console plans. As GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb points out, you can tell TCL is speculating on console makers’ plans “because they put the information up in big letters on a stage. If the company knew what it was talking about, then it would be under a non-disclosure agreement.”

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#4k, #8k, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #ps5, #resolution, #sony, #xbox

Sony’s classic games blunder: Why PAL isn’t your friend

A video of the slower PAL version of Ape Escape running on PlayStation Plus.

Sony’s confusing new multi-tiered PlayStation Plus subscription plan has now launched in multiple Asian territories (outside Japan) ahead of a worldwide launch planned for the coming weeks. But users in those regions are finding that some of the classic games on the service are unexpectedly running slower than they remembered.

Video Games Chronicle has confirmed that first-party original PlayStation games (i.e., those published by Sony) available on PlayStation Plus in Asia are the European versions designed to run on the PAL video standard. That makes some sense in countries like Indonesia, which natively used that 50 Hz video format during the original PlayStation’s heyday. But the PAL versions are also being offered for download in countries like Taiwan, which used the 60 Hz NTSC format of standard-definition TVs in North America and Japan, among other countries.

The result is games that run at slower and less consistent frame rates on modern displays, as seen in this sample video. Third-party classic PlayStation Plus titles, on the other hand, are available in the NTSC format.

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#classics, #gaming-culture, #playstation, #playstation-plus, #sony

Sony reportedly forces Insomniac to stay silent on abortion rights

A few of Insomniac's biggest franchises.

Enlarge / A few of Insomniac’s biggest franchises. (credit: Insomniac)

Ratchet & Clank and Spider-Man developer Insomniac Games has made a $50,000 donation to the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), and its parent company, Sony, will reportedly match that number. But those donations come amid public silence from both companies on the contentious issue and reports of internal drama surrounding a response to the Supreme Court’s reported efforts to overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade precedent.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that PlayStation President Jim Ryan sent an email to staffers urging them “to respect differences of opinion among everyone in our internal and external communities” on issues such as abortion rights. “Respect does not equal agreement. But it is fundamental to who we are as a company and as a valued global brand,” Ryan reportedly continued.

That same email went on to share a more “lighthearted” and detailed story about Ryan’s cats’ birthdays, according to Bloomberg, a tonal disconnect that rubbed some employees the wrong way.

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#abortion, #gaming-culture, #insomniac, #roe-v-wade, #sony

Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones come with a new design, $50 price hike

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 has been widely regarded as one of the best pairs of noise-canceling headphones for most people since launching in August 2020, and we at Ars have recommended them in various buying guides over that time. On Thursday, Sony is announcing the next iteration of those flagship wireless headphones: the WH-1000XM5. They’ll arrive on May 20 for $400, which is a $50 increase over the existing XM4.

An updated design

In general, the WH-1000XM5—which remains a mouthful of a name—aren’t a massive shift from their predecessor, and interestingly, Sony will continue to sell the prior XM4 alongside this new pair. Still, there are a few changes of note. The most immediately noticeable tweaks are in the design department: Compared to the XM4, the XM5 has a thinner headband and wider earcups that should better fit those with larger ears. The earcups use a softer synthetic leather material, and the slider used to adjust the headband’s fit now has a smoother, notchless action.

I’ve only had the XM5 on hand for about a day as of this writing, which unfortunately isn’t enough time for me to give more definitive impressions. At first blush, though, the fit feels roomier and lighter on the head, despite only weighing 4 grams less than the XM4 (at 250 g, compared to 254 g before). The XM4 were already comfortable, but the XM5 appears to distribute its weight a bit more evenly, putting less pressure on the sides of your head without letting in a ton of outside noise. They’re closer to Bose’s QuietComfort 45 in that regard, albeit not quite as spacious-feeling.

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#ars-shopping, #audio, #headphones, #noise-cancelling-headphones, #sony, #sony-wh-1000xm5, #tech, #wireless-headphones

Breaking down Sony’s confusing PlayStation Plus subscription relaunch

Layers upon layers.

Enlarge / Layers upon layers.

Tuesday morning, Sony announced plans to combine its PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now subscription services. The newly revamped, multi-tier PlayStation Plus hydra will offer multiple pricing and access options for downloadable and streaming games from across the PlayStation’s more than 25-year catalog.

Starting in June, the revamped PlayStation Plus will be broken into three overlapping tiers, with benefits and pricing as follows:

PlayStation Plus Essential
$9.99/month or $59.99/year

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#gaming-culture, #playstation, #ps-plsu, #sony, #subscriptions

Gran Turismo 7 players use PC Remote Play to automate the in-game grind

Screenshot from latest Gran Turismo game.

Enlarge / Why spend time or money earning in-game currency when a PC script can do it for free? (credit: Sony)

In our review of Gran Turismo 7, we warned that players should “be prepared to grind” for the in-game credits needed to buy some expensive in-game cars. We also said the game “will try to tempt you to open your real wallet to buy in-game credits a little more frequently than you might like.” Now, some enterprising players have found a way to avoid that grind for Gran Turismo 7 credits: They’ve automated a credit-earning method that doesn’t require actually playing the game.

The method—publicized Monday by PSNProfiles user Septomor and noted by VGC—takes advantage of some PC scripting tools and PlayStation’s Remote Play tool. By sending preset inputs to a local PS4 or PS5 via Remote Play, the PC script runs through a single race automatically and ceaselessly, earning what some users are reporting is millions of in-game credits in a day (and/or avoiding hundreds of dollars in microtransaction costs that could buy those credits).

The automation follows the release of GT7’s controversial version 1.07 patch, which greatly depressed the number of credits players can earn per race. The patch increased the in-game time required to earn GT7‘s most expensive cars by about 63 percent, according to a GT Planet analysis, making an already grind-heavy game even grind-heavier (and likely encouraging more players to spend real money to skip that grind).

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#gaming-culture, #grind, #gt7, #hack, #mcirotransactions, #playstation, #remote-play, #script, #sony

Server issues lock Gran Turismo 7 owners out of single-player races

The virtual sun rises on another day that <em>GT7</em>'s servers remain offline.

Enlarge / The virtual sun rises on another day that GT7‘s servers remain offline.

A longer-than-expected server outage has meant that Gran Turismo 7 owners haven’t been able to access large portions of the single-player game for more than a day.

The scheduled server maintenance, timed around the release of the version 1.07 patch for the game, was initially planned to last just two hours starting at 6 am GMT (2 am Eastern) on Thursday morning. Six hours later, though, the official Gran Turismo Twitter account announced that “due to an issue found in Update 1.07, we will be extending the Server Maintenance period. We will notify everyone as soon as possible when this is likely to be completed. We apologize for this inconvenience and ask for your patience while we work to resolve the issue.”

As of this writing Friday morning, the server outage has extended to over 32 hours. While a version 1.08 patch is now available for download, the gameplay servers remain offline.

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#always-online, #drm, #gaming-culture, #gran-turismo, #gt7, #polyphony, #sony

The best games from PlayStation’s March 9 “State of Play” presentation

<em>Exoprimal</em> is a promising-looking new co-op battler from Capcom, and it's not just coming to PlayStation consoles.

Enlarge / Exoprimal is a promising-looking new co-op battler from Capcom, and it’s not just coming to PlayStation consoles. (credit: Capcom)

If you didn’t catch Sony’s latest State of Play video presentation, which concluded earlier today on YouTube, consider this a quick guide to the presentation’s best reveals of previously unknown games—along with mostly good news for players outside the PlayStation console family, thanks to many cross-platform launch assurances.

Exoprimal gameplay reveal

Exoprimal (PS5, PS4, XSX/S, XB1, PC) — “2023”

This brand-new series sees Capcom entering the class-based co-op shooter universe, and the results look like a cross between Overwatch and Earth Defense Force. In Exoprimal, Earth has been overrun by, er, dinosaur outbreaks—so much so that TV weather reports revolve around whether or not a mysterious floating orb might emerge and dump hundreds of ravenous dinosaurs onto cities on a given day. To drive this point home, the trailer begins with a ridiculous number of velociraptors falling from the sky and stomping through city streets. Other dinosaur species soon follow. (I’m going to call that a “high-pressure system.”)

Earth’s mightiest mech-suit warriors show up during dino outbreaks in four-player co-op teams, each emphasizing familiar co-op battling roles (tank, DPS, etc.) and having their own special abilities to contend with waves of dinosaurs. While I wish this was somehow connected to Capcom’s classic Dino Crisis series, the trailer didn’t leave any space to make such a connection. Still, should this game feel anywhere as good as Capcom’s better-every-year Monster Hunter series, it could be a welcome over-the-top co-op option.

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#capcom, #gaming-culture, #playstation, #ps4, #ps5, #sony, #square-enix

Sony and Honda are teaming up to make a range of electric vehicles

The Vision-S 02 (left) and Vision-S 01 (right) are a pair of concept EVs developed by Sony. Now, the company is joining up with Honda to build a range of EVs.

Enlarge / The Vision-S 02 (left) and Vision-S 01 (right) are a pair of concept EVs developed by Sony. Now, the company is joining up with Honda to build a range of EVs. (credit: Sony)

On Friday, we learned that Honda and Sony are teaming up for a strategic alliance. The two companies are creating a new joint venture that will design and sell a range of high-end electric vehicles and mobility services. The first EV is due to go on sale in 2025.

We got our first real glimpse of Sony’s automotive ambitions when the consumer electronics giant used the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show off a concept car called the Vision-S. This remarkably polished car was a four-wheel showcase for Sony’s sensor tech and had an interior that made it easy to consume Sony’s digital entertainment content.

Sony worked with traditional automotive suppliers like Bosch, Continental, and Magna Steyr on the concept, and we saw it again the following year via videos of the Vision-S testing in Austria. Magna Steyr is well-known in the auto industry for its ability to contract-manufacture vehicles for automakers, including BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota. Its factory is in Graz, Austria.

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#battery-electric-vehicles, #cars, #honda, #sony, #sony-car, #sony-vision-s

Sony offers a first look at the orb-like PSVR2 headset

Say so long to the original PSVR's glowing blue lights

Enlarge / Say so long to the original PSVR’s glowing blue lights (credit: PlayStation Blog)

It was just shy of a year ago today that Sony first announced the (then-unnamed) PlayStation VR2. Today, the company showed off the first photos of the upcoming PS5-compatible headset’s design, highlighting a number of aesthetic and functional changes over 2016’s original PSVR.

In a blog post Tuesday morning, Sony confirmed that the PSVR2 will mimic the general ergonomics and balancing of the first PSVR. That means an adjustable headband that tucks under the back of the skull and around to the front of the forehead, offering a base for an adjustable scope area that hangs down in front of the eyes. We called that design “exceedingly comfortable” when we reviewed the first PSVR back in 2016, so we’re glad Sony hasn’t messed with those ergonomics too much this time around.

As far as significant design changes, the PSVR2 will now offer a lens adjustment dial that can slide each lens side to side in order to match the player’s interpupillary distance. Getting a good match there can be key to providing a sharp focus and preventing eye strain and motion sickness in VR, which is why such lens sliders have been a common feature on headsets like the Oculus Rift and Quest for years now.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr2, #sony, #vr

Sony’s latest wireless earbuds have donut holes in them (on purpose)

Sony LinkBuds

Enlarge / Sony’s latest true wireless earbuds, the LinkBuds. Their drivers are shaped like rings in order to allow ambient sound in naturally, the idea being to let you stay persistently aware of your surroundings. They look like donut holes, so here’s an actual donut for scale. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

On Tuesday, Sony announced its newest set of fully wireless earbuds, the Sony LinkBuds.

The earbuds feature a unique “open ring” design built to let in ambient noise alongside your music, with the goal of keeping wearers aware of their surroundings at all times. That puts the earbuds in opposition to Sony’s other high-profile wireless earbuds, the more awkwardly named WF-1000XM4, which feature active noise cancelation to block out as much external sound as possible.

The LinkBuds cost $180 and are available to order starting today, with shipping beginning on February 17. I’ve had the earbuds on hand for a few days now; here are some impressions from my testing.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #sony, #tech, #true-wireless-earbuds, #wireless-headphones

Microsoft: Activision on PlayStation will last past “existing agreement”

Despite the prominent "Xbox" in this image, Microsoft suggests some of these popular Activision titles could persist on PlayStation "into the future."

Enlarge / Despite the prominent “Xbox” in this image, Microsoft suggests some of these popular Activision titles could persist on PlayStation “into the future.”

Microsoft now says that it has “committed to Sony” that “Call of Duty and other popular Activision titles” will be “available on PlayStation beyond the existing agreement and into the future so that Sony fans can continue to enjoy the games they love.” The Xbox maker also says it is “interested in taking similar steps to support Nintendo’s successful platform” following its planned $68.7 billion purchase of the mega-publisher.

The announcement comes as part of a blog post outlining a number of “Open App Store principles” Microsoft says are explicitly designed “to address Microsoft’s growing role and responsibility as we start the process of seeking regulatory approval in capitals around the world for our acquisition of Activision Blizzard.”

The bit about distributing Activision titles to non-Xbox consoles “beyond the existing agreement” is especially relevant here. In the days after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase Activision, statements regarding console exclusivity plans from Activision, Sony, and Microsoft focused on language like “honor[ing] all existing commitments” and “abid[ing] by contractual agreements” and “honor[ing] all existing agreements,” respectively. Late last month, Bloomberg reported that those existing agreements only covered the next three Call of Duty games planned for release through 2024.

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#activision, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #playstation, #sony, #xbox

This AI beat the world’s best Gran Turismo players

Sony AI has trained a new AI called GT Sophy to be extremely good at <em>Gran Turismo</em>.

Enlarge / Sony AI has trained a new AI called GT Sophy to be extremely good at Gran Turismo. (credit: Clive Rose – Gran Turismo/Gran Turismo via Getty Images)

A team of researchers at Sony AI have used deep reinforcement learning to teach an artificial intelligence to play Gran Turismo at a world-class level. While previous experiments have taught AI how to drive very fast, this is the first time that one has learned to actually race. And to prove it, the AI beat some of the world’s best GT players in head-to-head competition, as described in a new paper published in Nature this week.

Racing is not easy, and it involves more than just knowing how to drive a car really fast. Car control is obviously important, but so too are tactics, strategy, and the somewhat nebulous concept of etiquette.

Or, as the authors put it, “[a]utomobile racing is a domain that poses exactly these challenges; it requires real-time control of vehicles with complex, non-linear dynamics while operating within inches of opponents.” Some drivers might have limited success through aggression and going for every overtaking opportunity they see. But knowing where to pass and when to wait for a better opportunity—so you don’t get re-passed at the end of the next straight, for instance—is at least as important, as is knowing when to cede to a rival so you don’t end up in the wall or a gravel trap.

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#ai, #cars, #e-sports, #gaming-culture, #gran-turismo, #gran-turismo-sport, #machine-learning, #neural-net, #science, #sony, #sony-ai

Sony patent could solve the “god ray” problem in PSVR2

The small light-absorbing portions (labeled 12 in this diagram) are key to Sony's solution to the "god ray" problem.

Enlarge / The small light-absorbing portions (labeled 12 in this diagram) are key to Sony’s solution to the “god ray” problem. (credit: Sony / USPTO)

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time in virtual reality, you’ve probably encountered issues with “god rays,” a specific type of lens flare that looks a bit like a sunbeam shining through the clouds and right on your eye. Now, a recently unearthed patent from Sony suggests the PlayStation VR maker may have solved that problem for its upcoming PlayStation VR2 headset.

The presence of god rays (or crepuscular rays, to use a more technical and less religious term) in virtual reality is an artifact from the use of Fresnel lenses in most headsets. Unlike a traditional dome-shaped lens, a Fresnel lens uses precisely angled concentric grooves on the surface of a clear flat panel to focus light on a specific point.

This lets Fresnel lenses operate at a much smaller focal length and with a thinner and lighter profile than a traditional lens, making them ideal for virtual reality headsets. But the downside is that the edges of those concentric grooves sometimes throw a ray of light sideways rather than focusing it, which can show up as a crepuscular ray when it hits your eye.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr, #psvr2, #sony, #virtual-reality, #vr

Gran Turismo 7 preview: A return to expansive, grindy, car-collecting roots

A Gran Turismo 7 screenshot showing an in-car view

Enlarge (credit: Sony)

If Sony and Polyphony Digital stick to their current deadline, the newest installment of the 25-year-old Gran Turismo franchise should launch on March 4. Gran Turismo 7 will be the first GT game for the PS5 console (there’s a PS4 port for those of us who can’t get a hold of the latest-gen hardware). The game will have a bunch of new features and see the return of plenty of older ones.

Earlier today, Sony published a half-hour “state of play” video showing off GT7, and earlier this week, the company briefed Ars on the new game. Read on to find out what we know—and crucially, what we’re still waiting to find out ahead of the game’s launch,

When Gran Turismo: Sport debuted in 2017, it left many die-hard GT fans wanting. It solved some long-running issues with the franchise, notably in how it simulated tires. But Sport was almost entirely focused on e-sports and online multiplayer gameplay. To some fans raised on previous games that were giant sandboxes full of cars, this felt like a betrayal.

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#cars, #gaming-culture, #gran-turismo, #gran-turismo-2, #gran-turismo-7, #playstation, #polyphony-digital, #ps4, #racing, #racing-game, #sony

A wacky, $3.6 billion end to gaming-acquisition January: Sony buys Bungie

Well, we didn't necessarily see this one coming.

Enlarge / Well, we didn’t necessarily see this one coming. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Sony | Bungie)

After Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard King, talk turned to how Sony and its PlayStation division would deal with the fallout of the purchase. If the Xbox becomes the exclusive home of Call of Duty games, would Sony be left out of the megaton first-person shooter space? Would Sony fire back with a major acquisition of its own?

On Monday, Sony announced plans to acquire Bungie and its Destiny series of shooters in a deal reportedly valued at $3.6 billion (in an email to Ars Technica, a Sony rep declined to confirm that figure). Somehow, this pricey purchase includes a firm pledge from Bungie, despite its new corporate overlords: Bungie’s “future games” will not be PlayStation exclusives.

Bungie had clearly prepared to announce this news to its active Destiny 2 user base, which plays on a variety of non-PlayStation platforms like Steam, Google Stadia, and (of course) Xbox. Its Destiny 2-specific FAQ confirms that the game’s current content map is set until at least 2024, when a project dubbed “The Final Shape” launches. All planned content will continue to work cross-platform without any PlayStation “console exclusive” forks or DLC, the company said.

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#bungie, #destiny, #destiny-2, #gaming-culture, #halo, #playstation, #sony

Sony brings a compact, flagship smartphone to the US

Promotional image of cutting-edge smartphone.

Enlarge / The Sony Xperia 5 III, in green. (credit: Sony)

Sony is bringing a $1,000 flagship smartphone, the Xperia 5 III, to the US market. Calling the device “new,” however, is a bit of a stretch, as the phone was announced nine months ago.

As you’d expect from the price, the Xperia 5 III is a high-end flagship. It has a Snapdragon 888 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4500 mAh battery, and a 6.1-inch, 120 Hz, 2520×1080 OLED display. There are three rear cameras—a 12 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultrawide, and a 12 MP 3x telephoto. At just 68 mm wide, the Xperia 5 III is one of the most compact Android phones on the market. It has a very tall 21:9 display, but in terms of width, it’s only 4 mm bigger than an iPhone 13 Mini. Although it ships with Android 11, an Android 12 update is due sometime soon.

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#sony, #sony-xperia, #tech

Sony shows off an electric SUV and says company may start selling cars

Sony has followed 2020's Vision-S 01 sedan with this, the Vision-S 02. It's an electric SUV, and the company might well put it into production.

Enlarge / Sony has followed 2020’s Vision-S 01 sedan with this, the Vision-S 02. It’s an electric SUV, and the company might well put it into production. (credit: Sony)

In 2020, Sony surprised the world by unveiling an electric concept car at CES. Called the Vision-S, it was designed to showcase technology from across the breadth of the Japanese technology firm. January 2021 saw CES go entirely virtual for obvious reasons, but that didn’t stop Sony from showing off the Vision-S again. This time, it was a fleet of them, including footage of on-road testing in Austria.

CES in 2022 is mostly virtual—there might be people on the ground in Las Vegas, but I’m certainly not one of them—and Sony’s EV is back once again. And it has brought a friend: an SUV called the Vision-S 02. (This means the sedan is known as the Vision-S 01.)

The Vision-S 02 uses the same EV powertrain as the sedan, which should still mean a pair of 200 kW (268 hp) electric motors, one for each axle. Yet again, Sony has made extensive use of its sensor know-how to endow the Vision-S 02 with a mix of lidar and high-resolution, wide-dynamic-range CMOS optical sensors that give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it. The Vision-S uses that fused sensor data to inform drivers about their driving environment, alerting them to the presence of emergency vehicles and so on.

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#battery-electric-car, #cars, #ces-2022, #sony, #sony-vision-s, #suv

Sony offers official PS5 faceplate colors after pushing out competition

The faceplate trailer you’ve been waiting for.

After decades of purely black consoles, the PS5 stood out upon release for its use of striking, white faceplates. Now, more than a year after release, Sony is announcing a line of replacement faceplates in black and four other colors, alongside matching colored DualSense controllers.

The console covers are listed for $55 on the PlayStation Direct shop and come in options fitted for both the standard console and the disc drive-free Digital Edition. Colored controller options are listed for $75, a small premium over the $70 white DualSense controller.

The new console covers, announced this morning, will arrive in 23 countries in two waves. “Midnight Black” and “Cosmic Red” colors will be released starting on January 21, 2022, and “Nova Pink,” “Galactic Purple,” and “Starlight Blue” will follow in the first half of 2022. Each console cover can be removed and replaced easily without tools, as outlined on the PlayStation site (and this old teardown video).

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#ars-shopping, #colors, #covers, #dualsense, #gaming-culture, #ps5, #sony

PS5 faceplate or IP violation? The law behind Dbrand’s “Darkplates”

PS5 faceplate or IP violation? The law behind Dbrand’s “Darkplates”

Enlarge

When gaming peripherals company Dbrand started selling its custom black PS5 faceplates in February, its website cheekily suggested that its efforts were “totally legal,” and it urged anyone who thought otherwise to “go ahead, sue us.” Now, sure enough, the company has been forced to change the design of its custom plates in response to legal threats from Sony.

Sony’s threats aren’t that surprising, especially considering that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter to console customization company The PlateStation last November. But the back-and-forth raises important legal questions about patent protections, brand confusion, and who actually controls the aftermarket for console parts.

Getting in shape

Sony’s “objection to dbrand’s Infringement of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC’s Intellectual Property” letter lays out a few problems that the console maker sees with the specific “Darkplate” design Dbrand had been selling before this week. Chief among them was the distinctive shape of the plates themselves, which closely matched those of the stock PS5 faceplates.

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#design, #gaming-culture, #legal, #patent, #ps5, #sony

Ex-Sony exec opens up about efforts to bring PlayStation hits to PC

Ex-Sony exec opens up about efforts to bring PlayStation hits to PC

Enlarge (credit: Collage by Aurich Lawson)

Sony has a long history of keeping its first-party games behind the walled garden of console exclusivity.

So the company’s choice to bring its PS4 hit Horizon Zero Dawn to PC in August 2020 felt like a precedent-changing move away from that barrier to entry. It represented a seismic shift for a publisher protective of its wide array of console exclusives.

But as former CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Shawn Layden tells it, adopting a more open strategy for porting first-party titles to PC was actually an easy decision.

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#gaming-culture, #god-of-war, #horizon-zero-dawn, #mlb-the-show, #nixxes, #pc, #pc-port, #playstation, #playstation-studios, #ps4, #ps5, #sony, #uncharted, #uncharted-4

Sony acquires its most prominent remaster studio, Bluepoint Games

Sony acquires its most prominent remaster studio, Bluepoint Games

Enlarge (credit: Play Station)

After months of speculation, it’s finally official: Sony is acquiring Demon’s Souls developer Bluepoint Games.

News of Bluepoint’s addition to the PlayStation Studios roster shouldn’t surprise many. The Austin-based studio turned heads with 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus remake before tackling its redux of FromSoftware’s Demon’s for the PS5. It has been a longtime independent collaborator with Sony, remastering critical favorites like Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, and Gravity Rush, and it has almost exclusively worked with PlayStation-branded properties. (Other than Metal Gear, Bluepoint’s only other third-party project was its 2014 port of Titanfall for the Xbox 360.)

A long history with Sony

Rumors that Sony would be buying the developer date back to the company’s acquisition of Returnal developer Housemarque in June. That’s when the PlayStation Japan Twitter account accidentally tweeted out a PlayStation Studios splash image that included key art from both Returnal and Demon’s Souls alongside other established Sony games. Naturally, the tweet was quickly deleted, but not before the image was saved.

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#bluepoint-games, #demons-souls, #gaming-culture, #playstation, #ps5, #sony

PS4 consoles will still be playable long after PSN has died, thanks to this major update

A video game console smashes through a brick wall.

Enlarge / Sony’s latest PS4 system update fixes a problem with the internal battery which would have eventually caused all consoles to be bricked. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

PlayStation owners looking to preserve their PS4 libraries well into the future can breathe a sigh of relief, as the system’s latest firmware update reportedly fixes a time bomb found inside every console.

Recently confirmed via tests by Modern Vintage Gamer, an unforeseen perk of the PS4’s system software update version 9.00 appears to have nullified an authentication communication between the system’s internal clock and the PlayStation Network. This had been a security measure that, when failed on both sides, prevented any PS4 software, digital or physical, from playing at all. For anyone concerned about being able to play PS4 games (like, say, Hideo Kojima’s terrifying P.T., a delisted proof-of-concept demo for the cancelled Silent Hills) long after PSN support for the system has been shuttered, this is great news.

Connection problems

The problem is the PS4’s CMOS battery, which fits into the hardware’s motherboard and is used to internally track the date and time, even when there’s no power. If that battery is removed for replacement or just dies, the system can’t properly track the real-world calendar. This forces the PS4 to reconnect to PSN to establish the correct time—a routine check that happens every time you try to play a digital or physical game. So what happened, preupdate, if you had a dead-battery PS4 that isn’t connected to the Internet? That time check with PSN couldn’t be completed, meaning any games wouldn’t play.

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#firmware, #game-preservation-update, #gaming-culture, #ps3, #ps4, #sony, #system-update

YouTube TV expands its live TV service with more Spanish-language networks

Google’s streaming TV service, YouTube TV, announced today it’s adding more Spanish-language networks to its base membership package and is preparing to launch an add-on package that will include even more Spanish-language content. Starting today, all subscribers will gain access to three new TV networks at no additional cost: Univision, UniMás, and Galavisión. These will join YouTube TV’s existing lineup of over 85 live TV channels, which today include top networks like Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and others, in addition to entertainment networks like those from Discovery and ViacomCBS.

The additions will bring to YouTube TV members a range of new Spanish-language content, including primetime series like “La Desalmada” and “Vencer El Pasado” arriving this fall, reality competition series “Nuestra Belleza Latina” on September 26, plus the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards on November 18. The additions also bring sports programming like the Campeones Cup on September 29, and ongoing match-ups from Liga MX, UEFA Champions League, MLS, and the Mexican National Team, the company says.

Univision also noted that subscribers in top Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and others, will be able to access Univision and UniMás’ local news, weather, and other programming. Plus, YouTube TV will carry Univision’s video-on-demand content library at launch, and subscribers will be able to use their YouTube TV credentials to authenticate with the company’s “TV everywhere”-powered Univision app.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their new agreement, but the deal hasn’t come with a price increase. YouTube TV, however, has been steadily hiking prices since its debut. It increased the service’s pricing to $64.99 last summer, following the new additions of 14 ViacomCBS networks, for example. But last month, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said there would be no new price increases in the near-term.

While the new channels will reach all subscribers, YouTube TV also announced plans to introduce a new add-on package that will be available for an additional monthly cost. This will include other Spanish-language networks like Sony Cine, CNN Español, Discovery en Español, Estrella TV, Cinelatino, Fox Deportes, and others. YouTube TV is not yet sharing the full lineup nor the price of the add-on just yet, but said it would offer more details in the “coming months.”

The Spanish-language network Pantaya will also be offered in the weeks ahead for an additional $5.99 per month, providing access to Spanish-language movies and exclusive original series, all of which are on-demand.

“We are delighted to partner with YouTube TV to expand Univision’s robust portfolio of networks and stations to include YouTube TV,” said Hamed Nasseri, Univision Vice President, Content Distribution, in a statement. “Amid the popularity of streaming services as well as the growing influence of our Hispanic community, this is an important step to ensure that our audience has access to our leading Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment wherever they consume content. We are excited for today’s launch and recognize YouTube TV’s continued commitment to serving our growing and influential Hispanic audience.”

YouTube TV is not the first streamer to cater to an audience looking for Spanish-language content. In 2018, Hulu added its own Spanish-language bundle called ‘Español,’ which now gives subscribers live programming from networks including ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, CNN En Español, History Channel En Español, Discovery en Español, and Discovery Familia. Hulu, however, doesn’t carry Univision but does offer Telemundo. Fubo TV, meanwhile, offers Univision and Telemundo and provides an Español plan with dozens of Spanish-language channels.

If anything, YouTube TV had been behind in terms of catering to Spanish speakers until now, and this offering will make it more competitive with rival services.

 

#champions-league, #chicago, #companies, #dallas, #houston, #hulu, #la, #los-angeles, #mass-media, #media, #miami, #mls, #neal-mohan, #new-york, #partner, #services, #sony, #streaming-services, #telemundo, #television, #univision, #youtube, #youtube-tv

Gran Turismo 7, Spider-Man 2, KOTOR remake lead PlayStation 5 showcase

Sony broke a months-long game of silence today with a wide-ranging PS5 showcase, announcing two new Marvel games from Insomniac, a remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and a March release date for Gran Turismo 7, among other news. This is the first significant update from the publisher since it opted to skip multiple major industry events throughout 2021. The industry behemoth is now offering first glimpses of several games in production from PlayStation Studios and third-party developers.

Leading the charge was news that a remake of BioWare’s classic 2003 RPG Knights of the Old Republic—which many players consider the best Star Wars game ever made—is in development as a PS5-and-PC exclusive, at least at launch. Though only the briefest clip of what looked like a Sith knight was shown, we already know this is a joint project between Lucasfilm, Sony, and Aspyr Media, a studio known for porting classic Star Wars games to modern hardware. Without a release date yet, we wonder whether BioWare’s Old Republic MMO will still be in operation by the time this remake launches.

PlayStation Studios galore

Sony also had some first-party news to share with actual, PS5-only releases. Insomniac is expanding its vision of the Marvelverse in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, due out 2023, and, unexpectedly, a new game starring Wolverine.

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#gaming-culture, #god-of-war, #gran-turismo-7, #insomniac, #marvel, #playstation, #ps5, #sony, #spider-man, #star-wars, #wolverine

New PS5 model is lighter, has a better screw

An unannounced PlayStation 5 hardware revision, first noticed in Australia by Press Start, brings two changes to Sony’s console. First, the new model, CFI-1102A, runs 0.6 pounds lighter compared to the original console, although Sony has given no indication about what has changed. Back in May, reports emerged that a new wireless module was planned, and that’s likely what is inside these tweaked consoles. The update applies to both the digital and disc versions.

Secondly, and most importantly, there’s a new screw for the console’s annoying and required base/stand. While the screw isn’t necessary when the system is placed in a horizontal position (there’s a small compartment to store the screw), anyone setting up a PS5 vertically needs the screw to keep the stand stable. The revised screw can be tightened by hand thanks to a new grip around the head. While that doesn’t make aligning the base/stand any easier, you no longer need a screwdriver to do the operation.

The console, which has been plagued by a scalper market since launch, remains in short supply. A quick glance at eBay auctions shows new PS5s still consistently running near $700–$900, well over the $400–$500 MSRP, depending on edition. Apps like StockInformer can alert those who are still trying to track one down—minus the reseller premium.

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#gaming-culture, #playstation-5, #ps5, #sony

This Week in Apps: OnlyFans bans sexual content, SharePlay delayed, TikTok questioned over biometric data collection

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

OnlyFans logo displayed on a phone screen and a website

(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.

However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-come increased regulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.

The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.

U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are challenging TikTok on its plans to collect biometric data from its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated privacy policy in June, where the company gave itself permission to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Image Credits: Apple

  • ⭐ Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
  • Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
  • In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
  • The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.

Platforms: Google

  • A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
  • Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
  • An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.

Augmented Reality

  • Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.

Fintech

  • Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.

Social

Image Credits: Facebook

  • Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
  • Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
  • The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
  • Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles. 

Photos

  • Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.

Messaging

  • WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
  • WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
  • Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
  • YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
  • Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
  • Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well, reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.

Dating

  • Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.

Gaming

Image Source: The Pokémon Company

  • Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
  • Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut, reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
  • Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War. 

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Health & Fitness

  • Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
  • Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.

Image Credits: Samsung

Adtech

Government & Policy

  • China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.

Security & Privacy

  • A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.

Funding and M&A

? South Korea’s GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won ($685 million USD). Yogiyo is the second-largest food delivery app in South Korea, with a 25% market share.

? Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.

? Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.

? Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.

? Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.

? Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.

? Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.

? U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.

Public Markets

?Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.

?Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2.  Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.

Downloads

Polycam (update)

Image Credits: Polycam

3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.

Jiobit (update)

Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.

Tweets

When your app redesign goes wrong…

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said. 

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Anyone have app ideas?

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Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut: Reflections, both literal and physical

Ghost of Tsushima‘s Iki Island expansion, included in the new Director’s Cut version of the game, presents an even better narrative than what we saw in the base game. The Director’s Cut, which releases on August 20, also brings new armor sets, a director’s commentary, and a digital art book. The PlayStation 5 edition costs $69.99, and the PlayStation 4 version is $59.99—though you can upgrade a PS4 copy of the base game to the Director’s Cut for $19.99. (Note: A co-op multiplayer mode was not available in the prelaunch review code.)

The Iki content is separate from the stories and characters of the original game, which took place on the mainland. Ghost of Tsushima‘s protagonist, Jin, is still the main character, and as he travels to the island of Iki, he encounters an isolated people who resent outside influence, especially from samurai like him.

Jin is viewed with suspicion, even as the Mongols—the primary antagonists of Ghost of Tsushima—continue their raids on Iki’s outnumbered pirate population. The islanders’ distrust of outsiders is explained as the plot unfolds, and the new material explores themes ignored by the original game. The expansion focuses on Jin’s propensity for violence and gives thematic weight to the frequent battles that result in ludicrous body counts. Ghost of Tsushima retains its brutal gameplay, but the narrative forces players to consider the downside of cutting down anyone who looks at you funny.

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#gaming-culture, #ghosts-of-tsushima, #playstation-5, #ps4, #ps5, #review, #sony

Low semiconductor supplies may not be the main reason for PS5 shortages

Snapping off the outer white panel on the PS5.

Enlarge (credit: Sony / Youtube)

In an earnings call last night, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki said that despite worldwide semiconductor shortages, the company has “secured a number of chips that’s necessary to achieve” the company’s current production target of at least 14.8 million PlayStation 5 consoles in the current fiscal year (which ends in March 2022). “Regarding the supply of the semiconductors, we’re not concerned,” he said during a Q&A portion of the event.

That statement implies that Sony plans to make and ship at least 12.5 million PS5 units on top of the 10.1 million it shipped through the end of June (10 million of which had sold through to consumers by July 18). That production rate would only be about 4 percent faster than the roughly 44,000 units per day Sony shipped on average in the system’s first 7.5 months on the market. That’s despite a February statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan suggesting that supply chain improvements would mean “by the time we get to the second half of [2021], you’re going to be seeing really decent [PS5 production] numbers indeed.”

Are shortages here to stay?

The modest increase in PS5 production in the coming months likely won’t be enough to put a dent in widespread PS5 shortages, which are causing units of the system to sell out almost immediately when they hit retail shelves. But Totoki’s new statement suggests those shortages are driven more by intense demand than by Sony’s inability to secure the chips it feels it needs in the near term (and while scalpers certainly aren’t helping that situation, healthy demand from consumers seems to be driving the market in total).

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Putting the PS5’s 10 million sales in context

When Sony announced Monday that it had sold 10 million PlayStation 5 consoles to consumers, it trumpeted the system as “the fastest-selling console in Sony Interactive Entertainment history.” That statement certainly sounds impressive, but it lacks the specificity we need to judge just how impressive the PS5’s sales have been so far (despite component shortages that could make the system hard to find into next year).

To add more context to Sony’s announcement, we looked at how quickly some other recent consoles took to sell their first 10 million systems worldwide. While different launch dates and staggered international launches skew some of these comparisons, the data overall shows that the PS5 is selling as fast or faster than some of the most popular consoles of the recent past.

We also looked at newly revealed sales data for PS5 exclusives Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and compared their sales rates to similar early system-sellers on the Switch.

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#gaming-culture, #microsoft, #nintendo, #ps5, #sales, #sony, #switch, #xbox

PS5 gets high-speed M.2 SSD storage support in new beta system software

New PlayStation 5 system software rolling out in beta today finally unlocks the long-promised ability to expand the system’s 667GB of usable internal storage, using M.2 SSDs that fit certain technical and physical requirements.

As listed on a new PlayStation support page, the new system software supports 22 mm-wide M.2 drives using the PCIe Gen 4 standard. Single- or double-sided drives with storage sizes ranging from 250GB to 4TB should work with the console.

Sony recommends that any PS5 expansion drive have a sequential read speed of at least 5500MB/s but warns that even then, “not all games are necessarily playable with the exact same performance provided by the PS5 console’s internal Ultra-High Speed SSD.” The company also recommends a heatsink (either built in or attached by the user) to aid with heat dissipation but warns that the heatsink should only rise 8 mm “above the board” to help ensure the entire housing can fit in the PS5’s 11.25 mm-high compartment.

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Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series

Sony has launched its first vlogging-specific mirrorless camera, the ZV-E10, that borrows a number of features from ZV-1 compact vlogging model. At the same time, it’s roughly based on the A5000 and A6000-series APS-C mirrorless cameras, with all the good (and bad) that entails.

The two biggest advantages of the ZV-E10 over the ZV-1 are the larger 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and interchangeable mirrorless mount. The latter feature opens Sony’s range of 60-plus E-mount lenses to vloggers, making the ZV-E10 much more versatile than the fixed-lens ZV-1. The larger sensor, meanwhile, will deliver improved light sensitivity and a shallower depth of field.

 

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 uses the aging 24-megapixel APS-C sensor found in the A6100 and other recent Sony models. While that delivers sharp, downsampled 4K video at up to 30 fps (or 120 fps 1080p), it’s likely to have a serious amount of rolling shutter that’s not ideal for its intended purpose.

On the more positive side, it offers optical and active electronic image stabilization, just like the ZV-1. That should smooth out handheld shooting pretty well, though don’t expect miracles for walk-and-talk type vlogging — especially if rolling sensor wobble proves to be an issue.

Size-wise, the ZV-E10 is smaller than any of the A6000-series cameras at 343 grams and isn’t much larger and heavier than the ZV-1. It lacks an electronic viewfinder, but it’s Sony’s first APS-C mirrorless camera with a fully-articulating flip-out screen — a basic requirement on any vlogging camera these days.

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 comes with Sony’s latest phase-detect autofocus system, both for video and still shooting. That means you should get incredibly quick subject tracking, along with reliable eye, face and head detect autofocus. It also has an S&Q (slow & quick) feature that lets you record time-lapse and slow motion footage in-camera without the need for any post processing work.

It borrows several vlogging features directly from the ZV-1. The first is called “product showcase,” a setting that allows it to instantly focus away from your face and onto an object placed in front of the camera. That’s particularly handy for vloggers reviewing products, devices, etc.

The other is a bokeh switch that instantly sets the lowest f-stop available for lighting conditions. That way, you can have the background as defocused as possible, allowing your subject to stand out clearly.

The ZV-E10 has a built-in, high-quality three-way microphone (left, right and central channels) that’s designed to pick out your voice. That means you can vlog without the need to buy a microphone, though it still won’t match the quality and voice isolation of a dedicated shotgun or lapel mic. It also comes with a hotshoe-attached muff to help block wind noise, and if that’s not enough, a wind noise reduction setting. It also comes with a microphone input, though not a headphone output.

Finally, if you’re into live streaming, you can connect the ZV-E10 directly to a smartphone and stream directly to YouTube or other services — much as you can with Panasonic’s latest GH5-II. It will also work directly as a webcam, streaming both video and audio (not just video like other cameras) so you can take advantage of its high-quality microphone.

The ZV-E10 will be available in either black or white by the end of August and will cost $700 for the body, or $800 in a bundle including Sony’s 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 power zoom lens.

This post originally appeared on Engadget.

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China Roundup: Kai-Fu Lee’s first Europe bet, WeRide buys a truck startup

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

Despite the geopolitical headwinds for foreign tech firms to enter China, many companies, especially those that find a dependable partner, are still forging ahead. For this week’s roundup, I’m including a conversation I had with Prophesee, a French vision technology startup, which recently got funding from Kai-Fu Lee and Xiaomi, along with the usual news digest.

Spotting opportunities in China

Like many companies working on futuristic, cutting-edge tech in Europe, Prophesee was a spinout from university research labs. Previously, I covered two such companies from Sweden: Imint, which improves smartphone video production through deep learning, and Dirac, an expert in sound optimization.

The three companies have two things in common: They are all in niche fields, and they have all found eager customers in China.

For Prophesee, they are production lines, automakers and smartphone companies in China looking for breakthroughs in perception technology, which will in turn improve how their robots respond to the environment. So it’s unsurprising that Xiaomi and Chinese chip-focused investment firm Inno-Chip backed Prophesee in its latest funding round, which was led by Sinovation Venture.

The funding size was undisclosed but TechCrunch learned it was in the range of “tens of million USD.” It was also the first investment that Kai-Fu Lee has made through Sinovation in Europe. As Prophesee CEO Luca Verre recalled:

I met Dr. Kai-Fu Lee three years ago during the World Economic Forum … and when I pitched to him about Prophesee, he got very intrigued. And then over the past three years, actually, we kept in touch and last year, given the growing traction we were having in China, particularly in the mobile and IoT industry, he decided to jump in. He said okay, it is now the right timing Prophesee becomes big.

The Paris-based company wasn’t actively seeking funding, but it believed having Chinese strategic investors could help it gain greater access to the complex market.

Rather than sending information collected by sensors and cameras to computing platforms, Prophesee fits that process inside a chip (fabricated by Sony) that mimics the human eyes, a technology that is built upon neuromorphic engineering.

The old method snaps a collection of fixed images so when information grows in volume, a tremendous amount of computing power is needed. In contrast, Prophesee’s sensors, which it describes as “event-based,” only pick up changes in the environment just as the photoreceptors in our eyes and can process information continuously and quickly.

Europe has been pioneering neuromorphic computing, but in recent years, Verre saw a surge in research coming from Chinese universities and tech firms, which reaffirmed his confidence in the market’s appetite.

We see Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), particularly Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo pushing the standard of quality of image quality to very, very high … They are very eager to adopt new technology to further differentiate in a way which is faster and more aggressive than Apple. Apple is a company with an attitude which to me looks more similar to Huawei. So maybe for some technology, it takes more time to see the technology mature and adopt, which is right very often but later. So I’m sure that Apple will come at certain point with some products integrating event-based technology. In fact, we see them moving. We see them filing patents in the space. I’m sure that will come, but maybe not the first.

Though China is striving for technological independence, Verre believed P